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The quality review is the result of extensive evidence gathering and analysis by Texas educators of how well instructional materials satisfy the criteria for quality in the subject-specific rubric. Follow the links below to view the scores and read the evidence used to determine quality.
Section 1. English Language Arts and Reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) Alignment
TEKS Student %
TEKS Teacher %
ELPS Student %
ELPS Teacher %
Section 2. Texts
Section 3. Literacy Practices and Text Interactions
Section 4. Developing and Sustaining Foundational Literacy Skills
Section 5. Supports for All Learners
Section 6. Implementation
Section 7. Additional Information
|Grade||TEKS Student %||TEKS Teacher %||ELPS Student %||ELPS Teacher %|
The materials provide well-crafted, publishable texts that cover a range of student interests. Many texts are provided by experts in various disciplines or adapted by the publisher’s in-house authors and represent high-quality content, language, and writing. The materials include a wide range of relevant, high-interest titles that are increasingly complex and diverse.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
For a quick search of titles, one can download a list from the “Teacher Resources.” Book titles include Race Across the Arctic, Exploring the Deep, Deepwater Horizon: Solving the Spill, Forest Fires: Lesson from the Front Lines, Visit Yellowstone, and Race for the Moon. Some passage titles within the units are “Google Technology Sparks New Digs” by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch, “The Legend of the Texas Bluebonnet” retold by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch, “Forbidden Stone” adapted by Olivia Webb, and “Sir George and Slasher” adapted by Olivia Webb. “World of Wonders” includes texts with varied topics, complexity, and diversity such as The Roads Less Traveled by Peter Jacobson and Murasaki Shikibu: The Woman Behind the World’s First Novel, by Jessica Peters. The texts incorporate content and language that is appropriate to the subject matter. Texts are of high quality and cover various, diverse subject matters.
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, texts include familiar childhood stories, such as Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella. In Unit 2, Timeless Tales include fairy tales, legends, and folklore, like Paige’s Page: Blogging the Hero’s Journey #1 and Rising Swann by Olivia Webb, adapted from the European fairy tale The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. Rising Swann is a contemporary story in which the main character sketches a feather, hoping it will help her get accepted into an art school. The writing contains a preview of vocabulary before the story and focuses on symbolism in the text (e.g., “Focusing on the feather, Abby tried to swallow her thoughts.”)
The book Visit Yellowstone (author unknown) is an informational, literary nonfiction text. The writing is descriptive; the author’s word choice includes “Hungering to visit a place bursting with breathtaking natural wonders, like roaring waterfalls and explosive geysers?” The Legend of the Texas Bluebonnet is a Comanche legend retold by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch; it is an accurate and clear retelling of a well-known Texan story.
Cycle 7 includes the short fiction story Fun at the Pond by R.L. Wilbanks. This simple and well-crafted text makes for an appropriate beginning-of-the-year selection for sixth grade. Cycle 8, in the middle of the year, includes an increasingly complex fictional chapter book called The Fox Pack by Mia Stevenson. This text is also crafted well and, as a middle-of-the-year text, provides increased complexity. Cycle 9 contains the most varied and complex texts of the sixth-grade year, including The Wise Crow, a fable by Madison Parks; Treasure Hunt at Pirates Bay, a fictional short story by Steven Mitchell; Ranch Hands, an expository passage; and Mitch’s Big Fish Tales, a chapter book by Joshua Camp.
The materials include a variety of text types and genres. The texts include content and text types that the TEKS requirements for grade 6. The materials indicate that the grade 6 Lexile range is 800L–1000L. Students progress through “Cycles” within the program and move through their grade-level units based on their performance. The materials for grades 6–8 are included within four units. The various literary and informational texts and passages contain illustrations, bold words, timelines, glossaries, and many other graphic and print features.
Examples of literary texts include but are not limited to:
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, adapted by Joanna Robinson (Arabian folklore)
The Legend of the Texas Bluebonnet retold by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch (Comanche legend)
“Summer at the Lake” by Laurel Aquadro (poem)
“Tightrope” by Laurel Aquadro (poem)
Mom’s Phone and the Intergalactic Cyborg by Brantley Hightower (fiction)
The True Horror Story of Typhoid Mary (author unknown) (historical fiction)
Sir George and Slasher, adapted by Olivia Webb (drama)
The Mystery of King Tut’s Tomb by Arielle Engle (literary nonfiction)
Timeless Tales: Shipwrecked by Olivia Webb (news article)
Balto and the Race of Mercy by Olivia Webb (literary nonfiction)
“Bored” (author unknown) (poem)
Mask by Olivia Webb and Natalie Masters (novella)
The Case of the Haunted Barn by Quinn Beckman (mystery)
The Not-So-Great Skunk Adventure by Quinn Beckman (humor)
Mitch’s Big Fish Tales by Joshua Camp (adventure story)
Forbidden Stone, based on “The Image and the Treasure” by Horace E. Scudder, adapted by Olivia Webb (myth)
Examples of informational texts include but are not limited to:
China’s Great Dragon by Amber Middlebrook and Natalie F. Masters (expository)
The History of Storytelling (author unknown) (expository)
The Force Is Strong With This One by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch (biography)
Australian Aborigines: Storytelling through Dance and Song by Olivia Webb (expository)
Murasaki Shikibu—The Woman Behind the First Novel by Jessica Peters (biography)
“El Dorado: The Lost City of Gold” by Patricia Engle (expository)
“Pro/Con: Should we bring back extinct species” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (argumentative)
"How are Movies Released to Theaters?” author unknown (procedural)
Examples of print and graphic features include but are not limited to:
The instructional materials have relevant illustrations and graphics to increase students’ understanding and interest. For example, in Exploring the Deep, there is a sequential illustrated timeline. The graphics provide the comparative pictures needed to understand the advancements in technology. This title also has bold words and a glossary.
In Race Across the Arctic, the graphics provide context for readers unfamiliar with ice and snow.
The History of Storytelling includes two drawings: one of a character dressed in clothing inspired by Shakespearean times reading from a scroll and the other of a young girl dressed in clothing inspired by current times on a stage in front of a microphone as if performing in front of an audience.
China’s Great Dragon by Amber Middlebrook and Natalie F. Masters includes an illustration of the Great Wall of China with a dragon’s head at the front. Text features also include subheadings, bold text, and sidebars.
The materials provide texts that are appropriately complex for sixth grade. The publisher utilizes “The Lexile* Framework for Reading” to determine the difficulty of the reading levels. Although the materials provide a Lexile score for each text, the materials do not include qualitative features for each text within the grade level; they provide a general overview of qualitative features based on Lexile levels. No text complexity analysis is included.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
In the “Teacher Resources” component, teachers find the “Istation Books and Passages” document that lists all the available books and passages; it also specifies the Lexile range for the sixth-grade level (800L–1000L), according to The Lexile* Framework for Reading. The materials are designed for students to progress through instruction at their own pace via “cycles” and units.
The materials include texts at the appropriate quantitative level of complexity to support students at the grade level. The measure is based on the Lexile that accompanies each text and stage of reading. The following stages of reading are accounted for: Emergent, Early, Beginner, Transitional, Intermediate, and Progressing Adolescent. Each stage of reading is based on quantitative and qualitative features per the Lexile.
According to the “Istation Stages of Reading,” each stage has general “Reader Characteristics” and “Text Characteristics” that will guide the qualitative selection of text, based on Lexile measurement and targeted skills. For example, for an Emergent Reader (no Lexile range), the text characteristics are “repetitious phrases or patterns, one line per page with few words in the line, and predictable text with strong pictorial support.” For Progressing Adolescents (700 L–1150 L), the text characteristics are “many new vocabulary words requiring readers to use context, glossaries, or dictionaries, a wide range of complex and informational texts. Texts present societal issues important to adolescents, such as growing up and family, and texts present multiple themes using multiple text structures.”
Texts used to teach reading skills (e.g., summarizing, making inferences, evaluating story elements and text structures) increase in complexity. The order in which the texts are used is determined by the student’s level; this is based on the ISIP assessment, administered monthly. The texts include illustrations, bold type, glossaries, figurative language, and structures that correlate to the genre.
Unit 1 “Timeless Tales” include “Marvin Had a Mutt” (author unknown), “The Three Pigg Brothers” (author unknown), and “Running Barefoot Through Shadows” by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch. The texts increase in complexity as determined by The Lexile* Framework for Reading: 450L, 670L, and 850L.
Unit 2 Timeless Tales include “The Four Dragons,” a Chinese legend adapted by Olivia Webb (720L); “The Tree Spirit” retold by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch (770L); “Forbidden Stone,” based on “The Image and the Treasure” by Horace E. Scudder and adapted by Olivia Webb (835L); and “Paige’s Page: Blogging the Hero’s Journey—How to be a Hero” (author unknown) (860L).
Although the materials provide a Lexile score for each text, they do not include qualitative features for each text within the grade level. Materials provide a general overview of qualitative features based on Lexile levels. No text complexity analysis is included.
The materials contain questions and tasks that support students in analyzing and integrating knowledge, ideas, themes, and connections within and across texts. Lessons target certain skills and provide opportunities for students to apply the knowledge they learn. The materials provide a series of activities that build conceptual knowledge, are text-specific/dependent, target complex elements of the texts (such as making inferences and using symbolism to extract deeper meaning from the text), and integrate multiple TEKS. The questions and tasks included require students to discuss important details and ideas as they synthesize information from multiple texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials require students to use text evidence to support answers, claims, and inferences. Students make personal connections to texts in the “Reading 6–8 Model of Instruction Experiential Learning.” The questions and tasks target a pathway of “concrete experience,” “reflective experience,” “abstract conceptualization,” and “active experimentation.” This process entails “engaging in an activity to give context to a skill, reflecting on the experience, gaining understanding and skills from the activity, and applying new skills or learning to a novel situation.” Additionally, the materials integrate standards throughout each lesson and support applications of learning in contexts outside the classroom.
The instructional materials build conceptual knowledge. For example, in “NexLevel,” “the HUB,” to demonstrate types of characterization, the narrator robot guides the learner through a series of text messages various characters receive. Students can advance to individual skills highlighted and featured within the section. Students also make connections, such as in “ISIP Advanced Reading 4C,” Lesson 2, “Labor of Love.” Teachers ask, “What does the text make you think of?” and “What connections did you make while reading?”
In “Timeless Tales” Units 1–4, students employ various skills that require them to make connections and identify important big ideas as they build conceptual knowledge. In Lesson 1, students learn to make inferences. In “Teach: Activate Prior Knowledge,” students learn about the literal meaning of an idea, then build on that learning by thinking about the deeper meaning. For further understanding, students find complex meanings of ideas by analyzing the metacognition steps used to process information. For example, “students chart out the steps of thinking about what they know about a topic” and interpret or draw “conclusions based on evidence and reasoning.” In doing so, students can analyze and integrate knowledge, ideas, themes, and connections within and across texts.
In Timeless Tales Unit 1, students explore the history of storytelling by activating background knowledge about familiar fairy tales; evaluating and creating summaries of those stories; identifying deeper meaning by making inferences; and finally making connections between the texts, their own experiences, and the world. Lesson 1.1A requires students to construct definitions of key vocabulary, brainstorm and identify familiar tales based on given summaries, and create their own summaries. In Lesson 1.1B, students read a quote about storytelling and use a graphic organizer to identify the surface meaning, answering the question “What is the author saying?” In Lesson 1.1C, students read “Running Barefoot Through Shadows” by Yvette Guerrero-Welch, a modern-day version of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” and make connections to themselves, their own experiences, and the world using a graphic organizer.
In Timeless Tales Unit 2, students explore the structure of various modern adaptations of fairy tales, legends, and folklore from around the world by highlighting plot elements and literary symbolism. In Lesson 2.1A, students identify and record the main problem and solution in “The Four Dragons,” a Chinese legend adapted by Olivia Webb, on a T-chart graphic organizer. They also identify and record the main problem and solution in “Google Technology Sparks New Digs,” a nonfiction text by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch. In Lesson 2.1B, students identify plot elements (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution) in the retelling of a Comanche legend, “The Legend of the Texas Bluebonnet” by Yvonne Gurrero-Welch. They use the Freytag Pyramid, answering questions such as “Can you find and describe the exposition?” “Can you find and list the main events of the rising action?” and “Can you find the resolution?” In Lesson 2.1C, students reflect on guiding questions such as “How do authors incorporate literary elements like symbolism to tell a meaningful story?” and “Are there iconic symbols that can help readers build meaning from a story?” These questions guide students to discover how literary symbolism is used to construct deeper meaning in a story.
In Timeless Tales 2 and 3 (“Priority—Story Elements”), teachers introduce/review the concept of theme by asking students to identify the lesson taught in the story “Burned One: A Cinderella Tale” by Olivia Webb, which is based on a Micmac legend. Students previously used the story to identify multiple story elements. Students respond to the question “Who knows what the lesson [of the story] is?” and discuss the characteristics of a theme of a story. The teacher then reads aloud Aesop’s fable “The Jay and the Peacock,” and students discuss the question, “What lesson does Aesop want us to learn?” They continue practicing identifying theme using another of Aesop’s fables, “The Cat Maiden.” Finally, students read “Rhodopis and the Red Sandal: A Cinderella Tale” by Olivia Webb and Natalie Masters and complete a graphic organizer with the story elements, identifying and explaining the theme of the text.
The materials contain various tasks and questions in which students analyze the language, make inferences, and draw conclusions about the author’s purpose in cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding. Students also study the author’s word choice to describe characters and determine the motivations for their actions. Students can make inferences about the author’s purpose and craft and analyze literary choices to understand the text. However, there are no explicit materials to compare and contrast the purposes of different authors’ writing on the same topic or analyze an author’s choices across texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Content at a Glance” provides various lessons that cover “comprehension skills, word analysis skills, fluency skills, and vocabulary skills.” In Lesson 1, students make inferences. In Lesson 2, students learn about plot elements and symbolism. In Lesson 3, they learn about the antagonist and protagonist, which also leads to comparing and contrasting. In Lesson 4, students dig into nonfiction text structures and the author’s purpose. Intertwined in all lesson units is the opportunity for students to write on the topic. Additionally, there is a focus on vocabulary that includes root word analyses and analogies.
The instructional materials support students’ analysis of the literary and textual elements of texts. Making inferences is taught throughout the text sections. In “ISIP Advanced Reading” 8C, Lesson 4 features a graphic organizer to assist with inference. The student chart has the vignette text in the first column, the student’s inferences in the next column, and the student’s clues for the inferences in the last column.
“TT 2.0 NexLevel” L3, “Informative Text Organizational Patterns,” leads the learner through the text structure associated with the author’s purpose. Students decide on the writing structure and its inherent author’s purpose by determining keywords and using graphic organizers. Students analyze texts through a gallery walk and use the graphic organizers to discuss their findings.
In “Timeless Tales,” Unit 4, “Author’s Stylistic Choices,” students identify writing styles in sentences and short passages to understand how the author’s stylistic choices affect the text’s meaning. Teachers explain that the way something is written is called “the author’s style.” Students examine sentences and answer questions to determine if the author’s style is formal, informal, or literary (e.g., “What do these sentences have in common?” “Which sentence looks like it belongs in an encyclopedia or textbook?” “Which sentence uses imagery to describe the dog?”) The teacher also explains that the author’s stylistic choices are often connected to the author’s reason for writing: to persuade, inform, or entertain. Students continue to practice determining the author’s style by reading three versions of the same story and answering the following questions: “Are the words formal or informal?” “Are the sentences long or short?” “Does the author use imagery?”
Although the materials include lessons about the author's purpose and stylistic choices, there are no explicit materials to compare and contrast the purposes of different authors’ writing on the same topic or to analyze an author’s choices across texts.
The materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact and build key academic vocabulary instruction in and across texts. Vocabulary activities, such as using word analysis and context clues, allow students to determine unfamiliar or multiple-meaning words. The materials also provide teacher-directed lessons containing scaffolds and supports to differentiate vocabulary development for all learners.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include a “Content at a Glance” resource. Each lesson contains various tools and techniques to make the building of vocabulary and vocabulary instruction engaging, individualized, and relevant. Each unit contains a vocabulary activity as a part of daily lessons and instruction, including the study of Greek and Latin roots. Additionally, students practice their understanding of academic vocabulary and build key academic vocabulary both within and across texts by using vocabulary in context. For example, the “Middle School Reading: Context Clues Priority Report Lesson” employs five strategies to support the application of unknown words in the appropriate context. This lesson provides a lesson objective, a pre-filled key terms chart, and scaffolded support strategies; it also lists the necessary materials.
The interactive program places students at their individual level of vocabulary study, based on ISIP assessment results; this assessment is administered monthly. Students then follow learning paths that include games and activities designed to develop vocabulary focusing on different areas, such as word analysis, syllabification, analogies, and words in context. Teachers can deliver small group instruction to struggling students based on the monthly ISIP assessment results and the data collected as students work on the program between monthly assessments. Each unit in “Timeless Tales” contains “Vocabulary Visa” lessons. Teachers use these lessons to support student development of academic vocabulary in the appropriate context.
In Timeless Tales Unit 1, students explore word parts in the “Vocab Lab,” determine the meaning of unfamiliar words using context clues in “Mystery Word Game,” and demonstrate their understanding in “Vocab Match.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 2, students explore root word families by completing a word sort and analogies in the “Analogy Charger Game.” In this game, students go to 400-BC Ancient Greece, where a character dressed in an aviator-style travel outfit (Justin Time) and an orb-shaped robot explain to students that our present-day vocabulary originates from other languages. The game reviews the definitions and functions of root words and affixes and invites students to play along. Students are given a root with its definition, a set of words, and definitions that must be matched up. Students can hear a word used in a sentence by dragging it to the box with the question mark in the center of the screen. A sentence containing the word in bold appears below the word, and the character reads the word and the sentence aloud. The four words move to their correct positions above the provided definitions; Justin explains that students must match all words and definitions and click the green checkmark. For each correct match on the first try, they earn points on the progress bar. A bonus speed round unlocks when students earn “enough credit” on the progress bar, indicated by an arrow. Students must correct any mismatches (highlighted red) before advancing to the next round. If they do not unlock the bonus round, they can try again. Students proceed with the game independently. The bonus round gives students a time limit (depending on the number of credits earned in the regular round) to drag as many words to their correct definitions as they can before the time runs out.
Timeless Tales Unit 3 provides students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge of syllabification via the “Syllable Search.” Students also apply their knowledge of word parts using concept maps in “Vocab Hack.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Priority—Word Analysis: Understanding Words in Context,” students demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words used in the context of an unfamiliar text, identify context clues, and determine the definitions of vocabulary words based on those clues. A series of activities introduces strategies to define unfamiliar vocabulary using different types of context clues (e.g., “definition clue,” “synonym clue,” “antonym clue”). After teachers explain all four types of context clues, students independently read the short story “Road Puppy.” Students reread vocabulary words from select sentences in the text and read their definitions. Next, they search for and circle other words or phrases that are “clues” for definitions of those words.
The materials include a clearly defined plan for students to self-select texts, read independently for a sustained period of time, and write about what they read before advancing to the next section of learning. Without teacher support, the interactive reading curriculum requires students to follow specific protocols and procedures to achieve independent reading goals.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
“Training Videos” provide a quick tutorial and help articles to support teachers and administrators with the initial steps of getting started using the program. The “Teacher’s Features” button includes a video about how to use the “Teacher Station,” taking the teacher “on a tour of some amazing teacher tool features that allow the extension of Istation in many different ways.” Materials state: “The educator will see how they can use featured Istation animation in various topics to teach the whole group, small group, or even one on one to enhance the learning experience.” At 5:08, the speaker reviews the self-selected resource “World of Wonders,” which is a “self-selected reading option that students will also have access to during Ipractice at home." The “More about Teacher Station” link provides written guidance on the Teacher Station feature and its components.
In the World of Wonders archive, students monitor their independent reading progress. Students select texts to read and respond to based on their Lexile range or place within the interactive curriculum. The first time students enter the World of Wonders, they learn that they have a set amount of time to complete the tasks. When the time limit is reached, students leave this section of the curriculum and resume their work during their next interaction with the program. Students see stories they have read (indicated by an eye icon), stories they have unlocked and have access to choose, stories they have not yet unlocked (indicated by a grey lock icon), stories for which they have started a written response (indicated by a pencil outline icon), and stories for which they have completed and published a written response (indicated by a filled-in pencil icon).
Throughout the interactive reading curriculum units, “Timeless Tales” Units 1–4, students self-select texts to read and respond in writing based on the given prompt. Students either save the written response to complete/edit later or “publish” their writing. Teachers evaluate reading responses received after students have “published” the writing. Students must complete and publish the written response before moving to the next section.
The instructional materials also include a section called the “Istation Report and Management Portal.” Within it, the “Lexile–Find a Book” feature helps users find books at the appropriate Lexile and use subjects of interest as search criteria. Ways to track books students read, such as reading logs or charts, were not found. A “My Library” resource area is embedded in the instructional platform, but it is unclear whether students can maneuver through this independently for self-selection purposes.
On the app, the book icon reveals a library of leveled books by Lexile that students can self-select to read independently. There are four collections of books: Fiction: Beginner (61 titles: 0L–620L), Fiction: Medium (40 titles: 140L–870L), Fiction: Advanced (13 titles: 450L–810L), and Nonfiction (23 titles: 170L–940L). The Lexile range for grades 6 is 800L–1000L. Books can be accessed by Lexile measure or skill. Stories can be read in a whole group, read by the narrator, or printed for a classroom library.
The materials provide students some opportunities to develop composition skills across multiple text types for a variety of purposes and audiences. Materials allow students to write literary texts to express their ideas and feelings about real or imagined people, events, and thoughts; students also write informational texts to communicate ideas and information for specific purposes. Materials also allow students to write argumentative texts to influence attitudes or actions on specific issues, but they provide limited guidance on crafting texts for a specific audience. The materials are grouped for middle school, grades 6–8. Students have some opportunities to develop composition skills across multiple texts. There are a couple of opportunities across grades 6–8 to write correspondence in a professional or friendly structure.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” students read “Kate Shelley Saves the Train, Part 1” by Megan Giller and Natalie Masters and analyze how the writer uses details to establish character, conflict, and setting. They then “write an original story about what happens after the light from Kate’s lantern goes out.” They must include vivid descriptions to convey complex characterization and precise word choice to establish setting and conflict.
Students can enter the first annual “National Essay Contest” by submitting a personal narrative. After reading Claudette Colvin: A True Revolutionary, students talk about current events and have a chance to write a narrative outlining their own ideas about issues they believe in or with which they have had a personal experience. Six student winners will be selected as finalists, and winning students and their teachers will each receive a 16GB tablet. The grand prize winner’s essay will also be incorporated into the publisher’s “HumanEX” learning pathway for other students to read and learn along with. Parents are required to submit the essay for each student. This authentic writing experience gives students a chance to write and publish literary texts.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Informational Essay Prompt,” students read the informational text “13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Eiffel Tower” by Amber Richards and Jennifer Branson. After reading the text, students write an informational text explaining how the author’s point of view in this text supports her purpose. Students must support their responses with evidence from the text. The essay should be a focused, structured, and coherent piece of writing that includes an introduction, transitions, coherence within and across paragraphs, and a conclusion.
In another TT 2.0 NexLevel Informational Essay Prompt, students read “Bats: Truth or Fiction” by Jessica Peters and write an informational text analyzing the author’s comparison of myths and the truth. The essay should address whether or not the author’s approach is effective and use “specific facts, details, and examples from the text.”
In a TT 2.0 NexLevel “Argumentative Essay Prompt (Pro/Con),” students read “Pro/Con: Should we bring back extinct species?” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters. They answer questions such as “How do you feel about resurrecting extinct species?” and “Do you think the advantages outweigh the possible disadvantages?” They then write an argumentative essay to defend or challenge the author’s position. The essay should include “specific facts, details, and examples from the text” to support students’ conclusions. In the same lesson, students write a letter to a friend, providing information about a movie they have seen and persuading them to see it. The letters follow an informal, friendly structure, are addressed to a specific person, and are signed by the author.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Writing A Letter Prompt (Videoconferencing),” students read “Adventure Time: Videoconferencing Edition” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters, then write a formal letter advocating for or against including videoconferencing in class. The letter must include text evidence from the passage to support their position. It must also include all elements of a formal letter (e.g., a formal greeting, organized paragraphs with controlling ideas, “formal register, vocabulary, tone, and voice in order to best appeal to your intended audience,” and their name at the bottom).
While the materials contain some opportunities for students to develop composition skills across literary, informational, argumentative, and correspondence text types, the activities are limited and not specific for each middle school grade level.
Most of the written tasks in the materials require students to use clear and concise information and well-defended text-supported claims to demonstrate the knowledge gained through analysis and synthesis of texts. Materials provide opportunities for students to demonstrate in writing what they have learned through reading and listening to texts; there are some opportunities for students to use evidence from texts to support their opinions and claims.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials provide opportunities for students to use evidence from texts to support claims and opinions. In the “Integrating Research and Technology” section of “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, “Priority—Summarize and Paraphrase,” students research a place they would like to visit, focusing on interesting facts, the history, and the people who live there. Using that research, they complete the “Gist Summary” graphic organizer by writing a “gist statement for each of the [facts] they found about their chosen location.” They create a summary by combining the gist statements based on the information they learned when researching.
While reading an excerpt from The Call of the Wild, students “read the first paragraph and find textual evidence, or clues, to tell them why strong, furry dogs are in high demand.” Students must use specific details about Buck or Judge Miller to write a summary about those two characters from The Call of the Wild. In addition, students read an argumentative comic in Timeless Tales 2.0 and “write a paragraph analyzing how the assigned student site uses different modes of communication to convey information.” Then, students create a one-page comic similar to the one they just read.
In “Middle School Reading,” students read “Icarus” by Jennifer Branson, take a quiz, and then “write an essay analyzing how the playwright uses dialogue and stage directions to develop the characters.” The essay must include a thesis and text evidence.
The Timeless Tales 2.0 “NexLevel” “Masks Novella Unit” lessons are designed to cover grades 6–8. The materials provide opportunities for students to make inferences and to support their claims with specific text evidence. Students create two theme statements and provide two pieces of text evidence to support their inference about each theme.
Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel L2, “Priority—Dramatic Techniques,” provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge of how playwrights develop characters and plots. Students independently read several scenes from the play and answer questions to demonstrate what they learned through reading the text.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L3 “Priority—Analyzing Argument,” in the “Extending the Lesson” section, there is a “Research” option. In this activity, teachers assign students a controversial topic. Students research the topic and take a position. Students must gather multiple, credible sources and organize a class presentation advocating their position. Students then use the “Presentation Rubric” to assess their performance.
In Timeless Tales, “Fairy Tales, Legends, and Folklore,” the “Lesson Extras” in the “Problem and Solution Lesson” provide an opportunity for students to conduct internet research on a school, community, political, or global problem that interests them. Students demonstrate what they learned by writing a “letter to school administration or a local or state government official,” creating a poster, or writing a speech. The written response is evaluated based on clarity and the viability of the student’s proposed solutions.
Students apply composition convention skills and have opportunities to publish their writing. The materials facilitate students’ coherent use of the elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text. Students have opportunities for practice and application of the conventions of academic language when speaking and writing, including punctuation and grammar. However, grammar, punctuation, and usage are not taught systematically across the year, and the composition skills may or may not be applied in increasingly complex contexts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
A writing “Scope and Sequence” focuses on grades 6–8 with headings that include: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and personal narrative writing. However, many of the lessons do not provide systematic instruction for each middle school grade level with increasingly complex contexts. Rather, the materials provide individual lessons on the various components of the writing process.
For example, “Middle School Reading: Writing a Personal Narrative” consists of five lessons teaching the elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing). The lessons are designed to be taught over five days.
In Lesson 1, “Taking a Stand,” students read along as the teacher reads aloud about a young lady who influenced change in her community. The class periodically pauses to discuss essential questions and support their discussion with evidence from the text. After identifying other young influencers, students begin to think of ways they can take a stand on an issue they feel is important.
In Lesson 2, “Prewriting,” students brainstorm a list of topics based on what they discussed in Lesson 1 and use a graphic organizer to narrow down their ideas. Once they have chosen their topic, they choose from one of three graphic organizers to record and organize details they gather for the chosen topic.
In Lesson 3, “Drafting,” students review the characteristics of a personal narrative, learn how to use the graphic organizer they prepared in Lesson 2, and begin writing their first draft.
In Lesson 4, “Revising/Editing,” students discuss the differences between revising and editing. They practice both processes using sample paragraphs, then use the skills they practiced to revise and edit the drafts they wrote in Lesson 3.
In Lesson 5, “Essay Formatting,” students learn about and practice using the Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting, then use those guidelines to finish the essays they started in Lesson 3.
In “Timeless Tales,” Unit 3, “Hero’s Journey Lesson Extras” includes an opportunity for students to present a critique of an example of the hero’s journey. The materials instruct students to “come to class prepared to present a critique of their chosen example, employing eye contact, speaking rate, volume, enunciation, a variety of natural gestures, and conventions of language to communicate their ideas effectively.” The materials also include a presentation rubric that addresses voice and poise. However, the lesson does not include any instructional materials to model and teach these skills.
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel” Lesson 10, students utilize a “Revising/Editing Checklist” to revise and edit a peer’s paper. Students incorporate any helpful revision tips into their final version. Students then submit their final project after revisions are complete.
Lesson 1.3, “Voice,” provides support to help students “evaluate their expository essay draft for a clear sense of formal voice and then revise their work as necessary.” Students compare several passages identifying positive and negative tones as well as formal and informal voices. They then apply these conventions of academic language to their expository essays. Guiding questions support students in the revision process (e.g., “Do I use vocabulary that’s specific to my topic throughout my essay? Do I use mainly formal language and mature transitions in my essay?”)
Unit 6 includes teacher-directed lessons that focus on “how to edit and proofread paragraphs for conventions to make writing clear and readable.” However, grammar, punctuation, and usage are not taught systematically, in or out of context. The materials point out that the lesson “is designed for multiple grade levels, only basic conventions and proofreading symbols are used.” Students practice editing sample passages for spelling errors, using a dictionary to make corrections. Then, students edit for punctuation errors. The materials provide a basic Editing Checklist that addresses spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and paragraphing. The list includes a few specific items to look for in each category. For example, the “Capitalization” category guides students to correct capitalization errors, make sure each sentence begins with a capital letter, and capitalize all proper nouns. The materials do not provide any direct instruction on the specific conventions.
The materials provide some support for students’ listening and speaking about texts. The teacher-directed lessons include some speaking and listening opportunities focused on the text(s) being studied in class, allowing students to demonstrate comprehension. However, most oral tasks are unstructured and lacking response starts, specific talking points, or discussion prompts. Although the materials provide many opportunities for students to speak and listen, the oral tasks do not regularly require students to use clear and concise information and well-defended text-supported claims to demonstrate the knowledge gained through analysis and synthesis of texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
When teachers use teacher-directed lessons, students speak about and listen to the texts. These lessons are set up using the gradual release model. In “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, “Priority—Text Fluency,” students learn four different routines to support fluency development. In the “Oral Cloze Routine,” students “follow along as the teacher reads a passage aloud and models correct fluency.” At designated places, the teacher pauses, “allowing the students to fill in the missing words.” For the “Partner Reading Routine,” students read passages multiple times aloud with their partners. This routine “supports the development of comprehension skills” by having the students complete a graphic organizer to summarize the text read. In the “Phrased Reading Routine,” students read words “grouped as in normal speech, pausing appropriately between phrases, clauses, and sentences,” which supports students’ comprehension through phrasing. Lastly, the “Fluency Development Routine” “incorporates multiple modeled readings, comprehension discussions, varied choral readings, paired reading practice, and independent reading.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 1, “Storytelling Across Cultures: Lesson 1.1B,” students participate in discussions about short texts read out loud to make inferences based on what is read. For example, one of the texts reads: “You walk into a classroom and find the teacher sitting at the desk with red, puffy eyes and a drippy nose. She is coughing and clutching a box of tissues. She is wearing a blanket and shivering even though it’s at least seventy degrees in the room.” As a class, guided by the teacher, students discuss possible inferences. The teacher guides the students in making the inference by first asking students to identify the clues given in the text. Students identify the clues aloud, and the materials provide sample responses. Students then take the individual clues identified and put them together to infer what is wrong with the teacher in the text. Finally, students share their inferences aloud.
In “Cycle 15: Bridge Lesson—Metaphors,” students analyze metaphors in the poem “New Baby” by discussing metaphors in the text and using evidence from the text to explain the meaning of the metaphor. For example, after reading the poem aloud, students highlight “each metaphor and discuss what the author is trying to tell us about the baby through that metaphor.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 2, “Priority—Symbolism,” after students explore the definitions of the terms icon and symbolism, they practice identifying and analyzing symbolism in the poem “Freedom” by Brittani Shipman. Students listen and follow along as the teacher reads it aloud, discussing possible symbols and their meanings throughout the reading. In the next section of the lesson, students listen and follow along as the teacher reads aloud the short story “The Tree Spirit” (a retelling of “The Spirit That Lived in a Tree” by Marie L. Shedlock, by Yvonne Guerrero-Welch). The class discusses and identifies the symbolism in the story by answering the question, “What is the primary symbol in ‘The Tree Spirit’?” Then, the teacher reads the story aloud again, stopping throughout the reading to point out context and evidence in the text relevant to the symbol. Once students record that information, they think about what the text evidence means to them, write it in the graphic organizer, and discuss their conclusions with the class.
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, in the “Author’s Purpose” lesson, students speak and listen before and after reading to discover the author’s purpose. Students read three selections (“For Your Consideration: Why Brooklyn Should Win Best Picture,” “Made for TV: Why Movie Theaters Will Soon Disappear,” and “Method Man: A History of Daniel Day-Lewis on Set”) and then meet in groups to discuss each article and each respective author’s reason for writing. In the “Increase Student Engagement” section, after reading texts about movies, students write a speech about movie viewing and deliver the speech to the class. Also, in this unit, students use the internet to research children’s movies. Based on the information they find, they write a review and present it to convince students to see or not see a certain movie. While presenting, students are encouraged to make eye contact with classmates and speak at a good rate and volume.
The Timeless Tales “2.0 NexLevel” “Masks Novella Unit” also provides some opportunities for students to engage in text-based conversations to demonstrate comprehension and connect to texts. For example, while reading a section of Masks, students are instructed to “focus on making connections between Masks and 1) themselves; 2) another story, movie, or TV show; and 3) the world.” The materials provide a simple key of symbols for annotations. After independently reading and annotating, students are paired up to discuss their connections and annotations. Students work together filling out a “Bull’s-Eye Organizer based on their reading and discussion.” Although the materials do not specifically require students to refer to specific text evidence to support their discussions, students discuss their annotations and connections with the whole class. This novella unit is designed to cover multiple grades and literary concepts.
The materials engage students in productive teamwork and student-led discussions. They provide guidance and practice with grade-level protocols for discussion to express students’ own thinking. Rubrics for student-led discussions and presentations detail the protocols and language expectations for students.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Student-Led Discussion Rubric” measures “components of a student-led discussion, including active listening, communication, participation, and engagement.” “Actively Listening” includes summarizing what others say, asking clarifying questions, and making thoughtful comments. “Communication” involves giving and following oral instructions. “Participation” assesses asking for suggestions, taking notes, and identifying points of agreement and disagreement in the group. “Engagement” requires providing and accepting constructive feedback.
The materials provide practice with grade-level protocols for discussion. In “Timeless Tales,” “Storytelling Across Cultures,” students choose idioms such as “blood is thicker than water” or “the early bird gets the worm” to discover the meaning of each and decide if they have a personal connection with the idiom. Students then discuss as a class and use the group collaboration rubric.
In Timeless Tales Units 1 and 2, “Priority—Making Inferences” includes six additional activities that include student discussion. In the game “Inference Charades,” one student acts out an emotion in an informal 20-second charade skit. The other students take turns guessing the emotion. Once the emotion is identified, students discuss the inferences they had to make to guess the emotion. In the game “Twenty Questions,” the “Game Leader” thinks of a person, place, or thing; others in the group try to correctly guess the Game Leader’s secret noun by asking up to 20 yes/no questions. After correctly guessing, the students discuss as a class how the clues enable players to make inferences.
The materials provide teachers and students with a “Presentation Rubric,” which is separated into four categories: “Ideas and Information,” “Organization,” “Voice,” and “Poise.” “Ideas and Information” include conveying ideas and information using relevant facts and examples to support claims. “Organization” includes stating main ideas clearly and moving from one idea to another in a logical order, presenting an effective introduction and conclusion, and using presentation time well (not too rushed nor too slow). “Voice” involves enunciating, speaking loudly, using an interesting tone and emphasis, and using formal conventions of language. “Poise” requires emphasizing main points with natural gestures and maintaining eye contact with the audience.
In Timeless Tales Unit 3, “Symbolism,” in the “Lesson Extras,” students create formal projects to display symbols they found when researching a self-selected country. They can use visual aids, such as physical objects, posters, dioramas, and technology. Students present their projects to the class, explaining how their symbols represent the chosen country. The lesson has an English Learner modification to “create a project focusing on cultural symbols that mean something to them.” Students present their projects, comparing and contrasting the “concrete and abstract meanings of their chosen symbols.” The lesson does not include presentation goals and requirements.
Also, in Timeless Tales Unit 3, in the “Hero’s Journey Lesson Extras,” students can give an organized presentation of an example of a hero’s journey from a book, comic, TV show, movie, or video game. Students present a “critique of their chosen example, employing eye contact, speaking rate, volume, enunciation, a variety of natural gestures, and conventions of language to communicate their ideas effectively.” Students’ presentations must “thoughtfully discuss whether there is enough evidence to consider each selection an exemplar of the hero’s journey.” As students present their critiques, they “engage in meaningful discourse with classmates.” The materials provide a “Presentation Rubric” to evaluate students’ critiques. The rubric scores the presentations on “Ideas and Information, Organization, Voice, and Poise.”
The materials engage students in short-term inquiry processes to confront and analyze various aspects of a topic using relevant sources. They also support student practice in organizing and presenting their ideas and information in accordance with the purpose of the research and the appropriate grade-level audience. Although the materials support students in identifying primary and secondary sources, they do not engage students in sustained recursive inquiry processes.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
In the “Integrating Research and Technology” section of the “Lesson Extras,” teachers find activities designed to engage students in short-term inquiry processes to confront and analyze various aspects of a topic using relevant sources. For example, in “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, “Storytelling Across Cultures,” “Making Connections,” students use the internet to research current events that interest them. After choosing an event, they complete a graphic organizer and share their connections with the class.
In Timeless Tales Unit 2, “Fairy Tales, Legends, and Folklore,” “Problem and Solution,” students “use the internet to research a school, community, political, or global problem that interests them.” Next, they brainstorm possible solutions and record the ideas on a graphic organizer. Finally, they present their ideas by either writing a letter to the school or government officials, creating a poster, or writing and delivering a short speech.
The Timeless Tales “NexLevel 2.0” research project provides several options for students to present their findings in written, oral, and/or multimodal form. The materials provide the option of assigning a presentation mode or allowing students to choose. There is a “Group Collaboration Guide” for a “group research project with defined member roles and a rubric for evaluating collaborative student discussions/projects.” Materials suggest putting students in groups of four to six and provide “Group Member Role Cards” describing various roles and responsibilities (e.g., reader/recorder, reporter, runner, and leader). Students select from a list of topics, conduct research finding “at least 3 unique, reliable sources per person,” organize “a panel talk presentation,” “take questions from the audience,” and “support all comments and claims with facts from their sources.” A rubric scores the presentations on collaboration, active listening, communication, participation, and engagement. The materials do not provide direct, explicit instruction for the group collaboration research project or teacher guidance for the implementation of the components of the project.
The research unit includes a “Research Unit Overview,” teacher guide, teacher slideshow, and student guide, with graphic organizers, worksheets, and reference materials to support students through the research process. The research project materials guide students through picking a topic, creating basic and analytical research questions, writing a research plan, creating source notecards, synthesizing research notes, citing sources in MLA format, paraphrasing, and revising and editing using a checklist. The teacher’s slideshow mirrors the information on the student research worksheets. The Research Unit Overview states: “This unit is designed for students grade 6–8 and can be easily adapted to suit any topic or classroom. Each lesson includes ideas for differentiation, and can be accomplished in 20 minutes, leaving additional class time for completing research, writing, or conferencing with the teacher.”
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Research Unit,” Lesson 3, “Source Basics,” teachers explain the difference between primary and secondary sources and give examples of both. Students record the definitions and examples of each on the “Source Basics” section of their student guide and complete the activity at the bottom of the page. They fill in the reasoning as to why the given source (like the US Constitution, a high school history textbook, or a recording of a presidential speech) is a primary or a secondary source. Students also learn how to vet their sources for reliability, credibility, and bias.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, Research Unit, Lesson 4, “Finding Sources,” teachers explain that scanning text for keywords taken from the inquiry question is the key to determining if a source is relevant to the topic of a research project. For example, if the inquiry question is “Why did people in ancient Egypt wear makeup?” the keywords to search for are “ancient Egypt, makeup.” Students practice scanning for the keywords soccer and Panyee using a passage in their student guide.
The materials explain that “the three research unit lesson packets are broken up across grades sixth through eighth because they were written to cover multiple grades and research concepts.” However, there is only one unit that explicitly teaches and provides practice opportunities for identification and summary of high-quality primary and secondary sources, which does not lend itself to sustained recursive inquiry within grade 6.
The materials contain interconnected tasks that build student knowledge and provide opportunities for increased independence. Questions and tasks build and apply student knowledge and integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking. Materials require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas within individual texts and multiple texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials provide opportunities for increased independence, following a “Teach, Guided Practice, Independent Practice” structure. Students are introduced to skills at the beginning of each unit, practice the skills with guidance from the teacher, then continue developing the skills independently. Those skills are further developed in subsequent lessons.
In “Timeless Tales” Units 1 and 2, students think and talk about facial expressions; they infer what a person is thinking or feeling by looking at them and using prior knowledge to infer. Then, students read “Running Barefoot Through Shadows” by Yvonne Welch and apply the “Inference Thought Process Chart” steps to make an inference about the selection. Steps on the chart are: “Use information from the text; Use prior knowledge; Use thinking and reasoning skills; Make an inference.” Students also use the “Inference Iceberg Organizer” to apply knowledge as they go beyond a surface meaning to a deeper meaning to make an inference. The “Student-Led Discussion Rubric” has students check their ability to listen actively, participate, communicate, and engage in discourse.
In Timeless Tales Unit 1, teachers use an excerpt from The History of Storytelling to teach the concept of summarizing. Students listen as the teacher reads the text out loud. They discuss the general sense of what the passage is about, then follow along as the teacher models how to break the passage into smaller parts to write an effective summary. Students listen to the teacher think aloud and participate in class discussions, answering questions to help create a summary. In the lesson’s guided practice portion, students help the teacher determine each paragraph’s gist and write a summary of the first section of “Google Technology Sparks New Digs” by completing a graphic organizer. Finally, students independently determine the gist of the final three paragraphs of the passage and write a summary. Students follow the example modeled by the teacher, asking themselves “the five W questions”: “Who? What? When? Where? Why?”
Students analyze and integrate knowledge and ideas within texts and across texts. For instance, in Timeless Tales Unit 2, students read “A Cinderella Tale” and “Aesop’s Fables: The Jay and the Peacock” by G.F. Townsend to write a theme statement. To continue to practice writing a theme statement, students then read “Aesop’s Fables: The Cat Maiden,” also by G.F. Townsend. This task requires students to analyze and integrate knowledge as they read and identify theme statements for multiple texts.
In Timeless Tales Unit 3, teachers initiate a discussion: “We know that stories always contain certain elements. What are some of those elements?” The teacher then reads “Running Late.” Teachers model how to create a sequential summary: They reread the text and conduct a think-aloud, answering questions such as “Is that information, in the beginning, middle, or end of the story?” They also complete a graphic organizer recording the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Once the summary is complete, teachers lead a discussion to analyze the summary (e.g., “What conclusions can you draw about this summary based upon the activity we did?” “Is this summary effective or not and why?” Next, teachers read aloud “Michael and Lulu,” and the class records information about the beginning, middle, and end of the story on a flowchart. Students use the flowchart to write a sequential summary. Finally, students create sequential summaries of “The Legend of the Texas Bluebonnet”: They complete a graphic organizer and combine the information they gathered to compose a succinct summary.
Timeless Tales Unit 3 incorporates “multiple modeled readings, comprehension discussions, varied choral readings, paired reading practice, and independent reading.” The teacher models fluency by reading a passage as students follow along. The teacher pauses, allowing students the opportunity to insert words and phrases from the text. Students then participate in a partner read: They take turns reading a passage one paragraph at a time, and partners provide pronunciation corrections as needed. Students complete a “Sequential Summary Organizer,” providing information from the passage. Simultaneously, they learn about the essential elements of the archetypal “hero’s journey” narrative structure. Students next participate in a guided reading of “Losing Ariadne” by Olivia Sanzzi and Natalie Masters. During the reading, they engage in interconnected writing: They complete a graphic organizer that helps them identify the elements of the narrative structure. Listening and speaking are embedded within the “Teach” portion of the lesson with planned discussions (e.g., “Now that we’ve reviewed each part of the hero’s journey, can you tell me if all the stories on our list fit the pattern? Should we cross off any that do not? Allow students time to respond and discuss.”) Students are explicitly directed to think before participating in some discussions (e.g., “Think about the other hero’s journey tales we’ve discussed. How is ‘Losing Ariadne’ like or unlike those? You may allow time for students to further discuss ways in which ‘Losing Ariadne’ is like or unlike other hero’s journey tales discussed during the Teach section of this lesson.”)
Materials provide opportunities for students to develop vocabulary by identifying and constructing word-family words derived from common roots. The teacher introduces word families and reviews the terms affix, root, prefix, and suffix. Using the “Word Analysis Root Words” handout, students practice combining prefixes, roots, and suffixes to create words. Students include a definition of the word or create a sentence using the word. The “Word Family Web” worksheets provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their ability to combine roots and affixes to create words. The worksheet provides a root and several fill-in-the-blank sentences. Students add an affix to the root to create a word that completes each sentence. “Family Ties” worksheets provide students with a word bank, various root meanings, and fill-in-the-blank sentences. Students use their knowledge of the root word and affixes to identify the missing word in each sentence.
The materials provide scaffolded practice over the course of the year. However, due to the program’s structure, materials do not spiral the teaching and practice of the standards (TEKS) across the year. Instead, they focus on supporting individual student mastery of specific skills as determined by the progress monitoring data for targeted skills.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials are designed to immerse students in “authentic learning experiences” and “texts in multiple genres at increasing levels of complexity.” Students practice skills “across four critical domains of reading: word analysis, text fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.” Students begin the program by taking an online, adaptive assessment (“ISIP—Advanced Reading”) across the four domains for initial program placement. Every four weeks after that, students retake the assessment “in animated game-like episodes of The Right Stuff University” to determine their progress. Teachers monitor student progress and use teacher-directed lessons for “targeted skill instruction for individuals and small groups.”
Materials specifically include a scope and sequence for grades 6–8 that “outlines the framework of skills that are taught, practiced, and reviewed” for the various programs (e.g., “Istation Reading” and “Timeless Tales”). The teacher-directed lessons include a gradual release structure (teach, guided practice, independent practice) and lesson extensions and modifications.
In “Middle School Reading: Context Clues Priority Report Lesson,” as students learn and practice using context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words, teachers support struggling students in understanding the concept. Supports include fill-in-the-blank and annotated notes corresponding to the lesson; a video of a performance of a song and annotated lyrics, allowing students to follow along; and a lower-Lexile text with pictures.
The “Istation Reading Scope and Sequence” breaks down literacy skills by category as they are addressed in “Cycles” 7–15. Students take subtests to determine the appropriate cycle for their skill level. The Scope and Sequence provides skill descriptors for the following categories: Listening, Phonics and Word Analysis, Writing and Spelling, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Comprehension. The Scope and Sequence also breaks down the skills addressed in “ISIP Intervention Lessons” and “Cycle-Based Teacher Resources.” The Scope and Sequence describes the skills addressed in “Teacher-Led Classroom Small Group Instruction,” including supplemental vocabulary, comprehension, and writing activities. The materials support distributed practice over the course of the year. Fundamental skills such as phonics and word analysis are mainly in the beginning cycles. Vocabulary skills such as decoding irregular words using syntax and context are addressed throughout the cycles.
The “Timeless Tales Scope and Sequence” and the TT 2.0 NexLevel Scope and Sequence provide an overview of each unit’s literacy skills and specify the type of instruction: “Interactive Curriculum” or “Teacher-Directed Lessons for Small-Group Instruction.” The literacy skills and descriptors are broken into the following categories: vocabulary, reading fluency, comprehension, writing, and research. The various literacy skills identified for the Timeless Tales lessons are not balanced or distributed over the year. For example, some skills, such as analyzing “how the author’s use of language contributes to mood, voice, and tone,” are only addressed in Unit 2. Other skills, such as writing “informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content,” are present in each of the four units. “Reading Fluency” and “Language & Listening” skills are taught in each unit through Interactive Curriculum and Teacher-Directed Lessons for Small-Group Instruction. Some of the identified skills are not addressed in any units (e.g., “Explain the difference between rhetorical devices and logical fallacies.”)
In addition to the interactive curriculum, Timeless Tales provides teacher-directed lessons that can be used for targeted skill instruction for individuals and small groups. Some of the targeted skills are addressed multiple times, while others are only addressed in one unit rather than spiraled over the school year. For example, the materials provide multiple opportunities for students to practice inference skills. In Unit 1, the materials introduce inferencing and provide multiple opportunities for students to practice using charts that contain a scenario (“What you see?”) and an inference column (“What you can infer?”). In Timeless Tales Units 3 and 4, “Comprehension—Making Inferences,” the materials scaffold students from making inferences about individual sentence statements to making inferences about short passages. Students use an “Inference Iceberg Organizer” to record surface information from the text. Then, students review and discuss the surface information to find the deeper meaning. Students demonstrate their ability to make inferences by independently reading the short story “Pile of Problems” by Olivia Sanzzi and recording surface meaning and inferring deeper meaning using the Inference Iceberg Organizer.
Overall, the teacher-directed lesson structure allows the teacher to select the lesson that each student or group of students needs, as determined by the online program or classroom observation. Given this structure, a teacher would be able to use various lessons for scaffolded practice throughout the year, as needed by the students. However, the number of lessons does not allow for a year’s worth of spiraling and repeated practice.
The materials do not specifically label learning opportunities for students working above grade level. The materials provide some planning and learning opportunities, such as extensions and differentiation. However, due to the adaptive nature of the materials, students work at their current level of mastery. Extensions included in each cycle are for mastery of that skill rather than for grade-level mastery.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials indicate that upper-grade-level materials can be used for “pre-teaching or enrichment purposes” with students who demonstrate mastery at the “initial level of instruction” (students who reach “Tier 1” on the program’s assessment scale). For example, in “Comprehension—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The lessons are grouped to accommodate students reading within the 600L–1000L Lexile range. Materials state: “Timeless Tales Comprehension (Grades 6 and Up) lessons may be used in conjunction with ISIP™ Advanced Reading Teacher Directed Lessons” for supplemental curriculum.
In “Vocabulary—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The “Timeless Tales Vocabulary Visa (Grades 6 and Up) lessons may be used in conjunction with ISIP™ Advanced Reading Teacher Directed Lessons” for supplemental curriculum. Also, in “Text Fluency—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The lessons are grouped “to accommodate all levels in grades 4–10.”
The “Instructional Tier Goals” support document explains that the purpose of the assessments built into the materials is “to identify students potentially at risk of reading failure.” Students are placed into “Tiers.” The highest tier is “On track to meet grade level expectations.” The materials are designed for grades 6–8. Therefore, students in grades 6 and 7 have access to texts with above-grade-level Lexiles and complexity levels.
Although the materials do not label sections specifically for students who demonstrate literacy skills above grade level, they include “Lesson Extras” and extensions that consist of modifications and additional activities. These may provide opportunities for students to apply above-grade-level literacy skills in different contexts.
For example, in the “Integrating Research and Technology” section in the Lesson Extras of “Timeless Tales” Unit 2, “Plot Elements,” after researching and analyzing different stories, students create a 5-frame comic strip representing all of the plot elements of a folktale. They label the plot elements represented in the comic strip and share their work with classmates.
Also, in the “Integrating Research and Technology” section in the Lesson Extras of Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Author’s Purpose,” students write a letter telling a friend about a movie they have recently seen and persuading that friend to see it. Students make sure the letter is addressed to a specific person, follow the proper format, and sign it. They publish their letters for classmates to read.
In an extension in Unit 1, “Storytelling Across Cultures,” “Vocabulary Visa 1.1,” students write scripts for an interview of a famous person of their choice, using new vocabulary words in the correct context. The class then listens to the script and evaluates if the context is correct. This learning activity allows students to clarify the meaning of the word while synthesizing the word’s definition within a created context.
In the Unit 2 lesson “Vocabulary Visa 2.1—Words in Context,” an extension is to “write a short fictional passage about a dream by using all of the vocabulary words.” This extension is offered after the main lesson to further challenge students who have demonstrated mastery of these vocabulary words.
In Timeless Tales Unit 3, the Lesson Extras in “Priority—Symbolism” provide two opportunities for students to integrate research and technology. Although the options are not explicitly labeled for students working above grade level, they will be beneficial for students who demonstrate literacy skills above that expected at the grade level. One option is “Cultural Symbolism Research,” in which students select a country or culture and use the internet to research related symbols. The students create projects to display their symbols, which could include bringing physical objects to class, creating posters of images of symbols, creating dioramas, or creating presentations using technology tools.
The materials include supports for students performing below grade level to ensure they meet the grade-level literacy standards. The materials provide planning and learning opportunities, including extensions and differentiation, for students who demonstrate literacy skills below that expected at the grade level.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include an individualized, interactive, student-paced program that utilizes a monthly assessment to determine each student’s reading level (“ISIP™”). The ISIP™ assessment places students in one of three levels: Tier 1 (“On track to meet grade-level expectations”); Tier 2 (“At some risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”); or Tier 3 (“At significant risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”). According to the results of the ISIP™ assessment (i.e., the “Priority Reports”), there are targeted intervention opportunities for teachers to reteach “specific skills-based, small-group lessons” to struggling students on Tiers 2 and 3.
The program embeds “ISIP Early Reading” and “ISIP Advanced Reading.” Students can start at their level and progress through the instructional tiers, which include those who meet grade-level expectations. Skill goals become “progressively more difficult with each assessment period.” Goals target overall reading ability with the following subcomponents: “reading comprehension, word analysis, vocabulary, text fluency, and oral reading fluency.” Additionally, per “Istation Books and Passages,” the program is designed with a readability measure correlated to Lexile, which allows each student to experience uniquely designed lessons regardless of grade level. The purpose is to “match readers to the text within their instructional or independent reading ability.”
ISIP Advanced Reading offers lesson guidance for teachers to build student comprehension. For example, the “Unplug Yourself!” “7B Reading Comprehension” guided lesson contains teacher dialogue to teach prediction and summarization and check for understanding for students who are not proficient in these skills. These lessons are listed as Tier 2 intervention tools; these types of lessons are included at various graduating levels. The instructional materials meet the standards for this indicator. Within the instructional materials for each unit, “Lesson Extras” are extensions to differentiate rigor for students who demonstrate below-grade-level literacy skills. Teachers may also assign work to students based on need using the backpack feature in the program.
In the “Middle School Reading: Summarizing Priority Report Lesson,” teachers show students a clip from the TV show I Love Lucy and ask questions that correspond with the summarizing strategy “SWBST” (Somebody Wanted So But Then) (e.g., “Who are the characters?” “What are they trying to accomplish?” “How do they solve their problem?”) Next, teachers model SWBST using an excerpt from “Treasure” by Joanna Robinson. Students then practice the strategy independently. Teachers modify the lesson for struggling students by using a lower-Lexile text and sentence stems.
Students struggling with the skill of making inferences work through Timeless Tales Unit 1, “Storytelling Across Cultures,” “Priority—Making Inferences.” Teachers support them by providing an emotion that the student must act out in a 20-second skit. Fellow students guess the emotion; then, the group discusses the inferences they made to identify the emotion. Additionally, students play a game of “20 Questions”; after each correct guess, they discuss how the clues helped them make inferences.
The materials include supports for English Learners (ELs) to meet grade-level learning expectations, such as sentence stems, graphic aids, and vocabulary activities. The materials also provide some support commensurate with the various English language proficiency levels defined by the ELPS (beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high). However, the accommodations for linguistics (communicated, sequenced, and scaffolded) are limited, and the curriculum does not include a study of cognates or bilingual dictionaries. Due to the program’s individualized, adaptive nature, support within the materials recommended for ELs is identical to support for students performing below grade level.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
This individualized, interactive, student-paced program utilizes a monthly assessment to determine the student’s reading level (“ISIP™”). The ISIP™ assessment places students in one of three levels: Tier 1 (“On track to meet grade-level expectations”); Tier 2 (“At some risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”); or Tier 3 (“At significant risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”). Opportunities for teachers to support ELs are included in the “specific skills-based, small-group lessons for targeted intervention.” Teachers deliver intervention based on these results, not strictly based on students’ English language proficiency level.
Due to the program’s individualized, adaptive nature, ELs’ vocabulary study is based on the results of the monthly ISIP™ assessment. Teachers find suggestions for using vocabulary cards in the “Teacher Resources” section of the program. Activities include “I’m thinking of...” in which the teacher selects a card and provides clues about the word; students try to guess the word. In “Charades,” a student acts out the given vocabulary word within the designated time frame; the rest of the students try to guess the word.
Although other languages are not offered in the materials, teachers can select “Product: Reading/Espanol” to search for Spanish resources. Additionally, the “Launch Search Wizard for Espanol” contains the options to “Find by Skill” or “Find by Cycle” under the “Emergent Reader” and “Early Reader” reading stages. Selecting the reading stage will bring up an aligned lesson that addresses a particular skill. Lessons, such as “Comprehension auditiva,” also provide supports (e.g., picture activities as the mode for comprehension input and output). Each “Cycle,” 1–18, has lessons that correspond to the stages of reading; other resources include “book resources, lesson resources, materials resources, passage resources, poem resources, and reference resources.”
“Vocabulary Visa” also provides modifications for teachers to support various learners, including ELs. Though the activities are not labeled using the English language proficiency levels as defined by the ELPS, the activities correspond to the different levels of English language proficiency (beginner, intermediate, advanced, advanced high). In Vocabulary Visa “Analogies,” students understand vocabulary words used in the context of an unfamiliar text and use vocabulary words in analogies. Teachers support ELs by having them create a word map or word quilt. Students write the vocabulary words, the definitions, characteristics of the word, examples, and non-examples. The students use familiar words from their first language to help them make connections. In another modification for this lesson, students play a matching game with a classmate using two sets of notecards on which they have written the vocabulary words and their definitions.
When searching for linguistic accommodations or ELs on the sidebar, a designation says “ELL: Intermediate.” “Alphabetic Decoding Final Stable Syllables” covers the final stable syllable to help with decoding. This lesson is intended for intermediate ELs of a younger age. When applying the filter for “Middle School” and “ELL: Intermediate,” the program states: “There are no results which match the applied filters.”
The learning materials allow for lesson extensions in “Lesson Extras.” For example, in “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, Vocabulary Visa—Understanding Words in Context,” teachers first discuss vocabulary included in the lesson. Then, they use a graphic organizer with the vocabulary word in the middle surrounded by four squares labeled “Definition in My Own Words,” “This word is similar to…,” “Examples,” and “Non-Examples.” Students discuss the information on the organizer and include related words in their native language that help them make a connection. In Timeless Tales Unit 1, “Priority—Word Analysis: Suffixes,” students use word parts to decode and generate new words. “Lesson Extras” suggest ELs draw pictures corresponding to the meanings of some words in the lesson, share their drawings with a partner, and provide a predetermined number of clues to guess the word. In “Lesson 1.1.B—Making Inferences,” there is a lesson extension involving idioms to analyze. Besides these adaptations, the materials do not have sequenced and scaffolded materials for middle school students.
In Timeless Tales Unit 2, “Priority—Word Analysis: Root Words,” students construct word-family words derived from common roots. The Lesson Extras provide the suggestion for modifying the lesson for ELs as in Timeless Tales Unit 1, Priority—Word Analysis: Students draw pictures of the definition of select words and share the drawings and a predetermined number of clues with classmates; other students try to guess the word. In Timeless Tales Unit 2, “Plot Elements,” a “Modifying for ELL” section directs teachers to distribute blank copies of plot elements, guiding questions, and a plot elements organizer. Then, students are to write guiding questions, but the materials do not provide supports for the task, such as question stems or graduating types of modifications. Overall, there is no intentional, strategic use of students’ first language as a means to linguistic, affective, cognitive, and academic development in English.
The materials contain assessment and guidance for teachers and administrators to monitor progress, including how to interpret and act on data yielded. Formative and summative assessments are aligned in purpose, intended use, and TEKS emphasis. The assessments and scoring information provide sufficient guidance for interpreting and responding to student performance; they are connected to the regular content to support student learning.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials contain a variety of formative and summative assessments. The program’s “Indicators of Progress” (“ISIP™”) is an “online developmental assessment” that provides screening, progress-monitoring, and “continuous formative students assessments.” Materials include “Computer-Adaptive Testing,” which uses “a sophisticated, adaptive algorithm, the computer selects assessment items based on the student’s abilities regardless of age or grade level.” The Computer-Adaptive Testing program responds to a student’s performance by adjusting the difficulty level of items based on their performance accuracy. “On-Demand" assessments also can be administered by the teacher in direct response to student need and performance.
The ISIP™ is designed to be used as a “tool that informs teachers’ decision-making and intervention strategies.”The assessments are nationally normed, can be completed in 30 minutes, and are administered monthly. The “ISIP Summary Report” shows the number and percentage of students in each instructional group for the current month. The “Distribution Report” shows the number of students performing in ranges of ability. The ISIP is directly connected to regular content to support student learning in the online adaptive curriculum. Materials provide students an individualized instructional path based on their “demonstrated ability level” on the ISIP assessment. The assessment content for grades 4–8 includes word analysis of multisyllabic words, reading fluency with a focus on understanding, vocabulary development that helps students recall terms and provides interaction with prior knowledge, and comprehension skills. The curriculum contains frequent embedded skill checks that assess and identify when a student is having difficulty with a skill. The materials address the students’ needs by providing reteach activities and “another opportunity to learn the skill before moving ahead.”
“Benchmark Assessments,” or summative assessments, “assist educators in identifying students in need of intervention, which includes the use of a universal “screener” that assesses students at the beginning (BOY), middle (MOY), and end of the year (EOY). The BOY identifies potential reading problems. The MOY assesses student progress and needs for additional support. The EOY assesses if students have “achieved grade-level reading standards.”
“Istation Reports” support teachers and administrators in interpreting and acting on yielded data. In the “Program Guide,” the “Reports” section states the reports “can be run at the class, school, or district level depending on the level of access and desired information.” The reports can be filtered through a “drill-down” function, providing data on the individual student, class, grade, school, and district level. The real-time assessment results can be viewed at the “district, school, grade, teacher, group, and individual student level by all subgroups, demographics, and performance levels according to user permission settings.”
Teachers use that data to inform effective, targeted instruction for individuals or small groups using the provided teacher-directed lessons; these lessons correspond to the specific skills with which students struggle. Teachers access different types of reports in the “Reports” section of the website. For instance, “Skill Growth by Tier” shows “each skill assessed and the progress made by the students through the current month as measured against performance goals within tier groups.” The “Priority Report” alerts teachers of students needing additional support and provides lessons based on demonstrated weaknesses.” The “Standards Report” “groups the standards that relate to each ISIP™ skill and provides actionable steps to help improve each skill.”
On the istation.com website, teachers and administrators can access information that shows the alignment of the program to the state standards (TEKS) by clicking on the heading “Toolbox,” then choosing “State Correlations.” Under the “Texas” state subheading, teachers and administrators find links to PDF documents categorized by grade and subject (e.g., “Reading: 6th–8th”). The link connects to the “Istation Reading® Curriculum Correlated to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English Language Arts and Reading Grades 6–8.” The table for each grade level includes the subject (“Reading,” “Writing,” and “Inquiry and Research”); the TEKS number; the student expectation in words; the sections of the “iStation” app that correlate to that TEKS; and the iStation teacher resources that correlate to that TEKS.
The materials include year-long plans and supports for teachers to identify the needs of students and provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of a range of learners to ensure grade-level success. The overarching year-long plan created by the individualized, computer-adapted structure provides teachers with resources to engage students in multiple grouping structures, which are comprehensive and attend to differentiation to support students via many learning opportunities. The “Teacher-Directed Lessons” (TLDs), the program’s version of a teacher edition, contain annotations and support for engaging students in the materials; there is also support for implementing resource materials and student progress components. However, the TDLs do not include support for implementing ancillary materials.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include plans that are comprehensive and support diverse learners through many learning opportunities. The design “serves as a universal screener and progress-monitoring tool” that provides data on which teachers base their small group differentiated instruction. Benchmark assessments administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the year provide detailed data (identifying students who may have reading struggles, determining the amount of progress or lack of progress students have made, and identifying whether or not students achieved grade-level reading standards, respectively) throughout the year. In addition to data compiled from the monthly “ISIP™” assessment (“Istation’s Indicators of Progress”), the computer-adapted testing and the on-demand assessments determine which TDLs to implement. The materials provide a “Scope and Sequence” organized by “Cycles” rather than a traditional year-long plan of instruction. However, the materials can be implemented throughout the school year. “Istation Reports,” like the “Priority and Standards Reports,” provide teachers and administrators with immediate data to inform effective instructional plans for students. Reports automatically link to additional lessons for further intervention.
The program provides differentiated instruction by adjusting the Lexile level of passages based on the students’ ISIP “Comprehension” score. The “Timeless Tales” units provide differentiation to support students by adjusting the “level of difficulty, activities, and populations provided to students” based on student performance. This differentiation includes students struggling to understand and master the skill, those needing English language support, and those ready for enrichment.
The TDLs provide “over 2,300 research-based teacher-directed lessons that can be used to differentiate instruction for individual students, small groups, and whole groups.” They include “a scaffolded lesson structure that builds from basic to complex skills; and interdisciplinary content in English, math, science, social studies, and the humanities.” A “Modify” instructional note supports teachers in addressing struggling learners’ needs. For example, Timeless Tales “2.0 NexLevel” provides a series of lessons on the novella Masks. As students explore themes, the Modify scaffold suggests reading aloud with struggling students, “stopping to annotate and talk about moments where the theme might be apparent.”
Teachers find differentiated instruction suggestions for diverse learners in “Lesson Extras” of the Timeless Tales units. The Lesson Extras include “Adapting the Lesson,” “Extending the Lesson,” “Increasing Student Engagement,” and “Integrating Research and Technology.” In the Adapting the Lesson section of the Timeless Tales Unit 3 “Priority—Symbolism” lesson, teachers adapt the lesson by having students demonstrate their understanding of symbolism using familiar tales and recording their thoughts on the “Analyzing Symbolism Organizer,” then applying that procedure to assigned class readings. In the “Modifying for ELL” section, English Learners bring an item from home that they think represents themselves and share with the group why they chose the item. The group discusses how the concrete object represents something abstract about the person. The Modifying for ELL also has students create a presentation (using physical objects or images) focusing on symbols from their culture that mean something to them, share that project with the group, and discuss how the items are representations of their culture. In “Increasing Student Engagement,” teachers challenge students to demonstrate mastery of skills by creating symbols that represent themselves out of clay; alternatively, partners create each others’ symbol based on each others’ oral instructions and discuss how the symbol represents them.
The TDLs include a “Gauge Understanding and Respond” section that provides instructional strategies to engage students. For example, in Unit 1, “Storytelling Across Cultures Lesson 1.1A—Sequence Summary,” the Gauge Understanding and Respond support provides teacher prompts to address sample student responses. If a student’s summary lacks a clear beginning, the teacher prompts: “It sounds like you have a good idea of what happened in the story, but I am not hearing you tell me about the beginning. What happened in the beginning of the story?”
The materials have ancillary materials, such as the “Home School Connection,” “Jump Paths,” and the “Istation App.” “Ipractice,” a component of “Istation at Home,” “supports classroom instruction by providing students with the opportunity to explore different worlds, witness history, and practice new skills through mini-lessons, reteach lessons, and self-directed navigation.” Istation at Home guides student learning by providing online and printable books for students to self-select and “practice skills which aid in reading fluency and build their confidence as readers.” The “Parent Guide” provides a list of all of the Ipractice activities available for Istation home. However, the TDLs (i.e., the teacher’s edition of the curriculum) do not include support for implementing these ancillary materials and student progress components.
The materials include implementation support for teachers and administrators. The materials are designed to assess students’ literacy skills, place them at their instruction level automatically, and assess their progress monthly. The materials provide TEKS-aligned scopes and sequences outlining the essential knowledge and skills taught in the program, the order in which they are presented, and how knowledge and skills build and connect across grade levels. The computer-adaptive instruction that can be delivered year-round provides for a school year’s worth of literacy instruction. However, the “Teacher Resource” and the teacher-directed lessons do not include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction or realistic pacing guidance, routines, and support for 180-day or 220-day schedules.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Cycle and Unit Descriptions” section of the “Toolbox” tab of istation.com includes a link to the “Istation User’s Guide: Interactive Instruction Page.” The “Istation Reading: Cycles of Instruction” section explains how the entire program works and details the purpose, objectives, and benefits of each stage of the interactive instruction. It also explains how each part of the program is connected across grade levels. For example, in the “Middle School Bridge (Timeless Tale with Paige Turner),” teachers learn that this portion of the program supports students as they transition from elementary (“Istation Reading: Cycles 1–15”) to middle school and focuses on “high-leverage comprehension skills such as summarizing texts across genres and continues to build students’ word analysis, fluency, and vocabulary skills” through direct and interactive instruction. This section also provides a breakdown of all the skills addressed in each of the four “Timeless Tales” units.
The “Istation Reading Scope and Sequence” is organized by grades 6–8, “Cycle of Instruction,” and “Teacher-Led Small Group Instruction.” The materials specify the cycles and frequency with which Cycle of Instruction skills are taught. The “Timeless Tales Scope and Sequence” outlines the skills addressed in each unit. The skills are categorized by “Vocabulary, Language and Listening, Reading Fluency, Comprehension, and Writing.” The Scope and Sequence denotes which skills are “Covered by Teacher Resources” and which skills are covered in each unit. The “Writing Rules Scope and Sequence” “outlines the framework of skills that are taught, practiced, and reviewed in Istation’s Writing Rules!” Each skill has an “Online Instruction” and “Teacher-Directed Lesson” component. The Scope and Sequence identifies specific instruction skills (e.g., “Select a topic appropriate for the audience.” “Write simple and compound sentences.”) These instruction skills are divided into the following categories: “Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, and Essay Writing (Personal Narrative).”
The TEKS alignment is found in the “State Correlations” section of the “Toolbox” tab on istation.com. The “Istation App” (student platform) and “Istation Teacher Resources” correlate to each specific TEKS and the Texas English Language Proficiency Standards. For example, the interactive learning platform (Istation App) provides students with instruction and practice on TEKS 6.5E (making “connections to personal experiences, ideas in other texts, and society”) with “TT 2.0 NexLevel: L1 Virtual World: Sherlock Holmes Branching Narrative COD” and “L2 Virtual World: Les Misérables—Compare the Setting.” Additional teacher resources available to support student growth with that skill are “ISIP AR 4C Comprehension Interventions: Labor of Love” and “Timeless Tales Priority Report Lesson Unit 1: Storytelling Across Cultures: Making Connections.”
Explanations of how the materials should be implemented for maximum efficacy are found in the “Assessment Information” section of the Toolbox tab of the istation.com website. Students complete the “ISIP™” assessment monthly throughout the school year; this makes for 8–12 automatic assessments per year, depending on each district’s school year’s length. Also, in the Toolbox, under the “Usage Criteria” tab, teachers find guidelines for student usage of the digital component (30–40 minutes per week).
The “Instructional Tier Goals” section of the Toolbox tab on istation.com includes guidelines for student growth and pacing of the program throughout the school year. Because the program is intended for supplemental intervention, it is suggested that Tier 1 students spend 30+ minutes per week on the program. Tier 2 or 3 students should spend 40+ minutes per week. According to the “User Guide,” the “Middle School Bridge Cycle” alone contains over 1800 minutes of content, which would be enough for 45 weeks of instruction for a Tier 2 or 3 student. Additionally, there are 15 cycles of “Istation Reading,” “Middle School Reading: HumanEX,” and “Middle School Reading: NexLevel.”
In the “My Boards” tab, implementation lessons are on “cards” and sorted by topic. For example, in “Getting Started,” the cards include “How Do I Know if ISIP Is in Progress?” “Visit Our Help Center,” “Visit Istation Teacher Resources,” and “Access Istation Instruction.” The “How Do I Know if ISIP Is in Progress?” card states: “The ISIP IN PROGRESS bar indicates when an ISIP assessment is in progress. When the ISIP assessment is complete, the student moves seamlessly into the interactive instruction.” In the top right corner of the teacher login page, there is a green “Get Help” icon. The “Help Center” includes a “Get Started” section that contains implementation guides for teachers. These guides are available for Day 1, Month 1, Month 2, “Ongoing,” and “At Home.” There are also training videos available within the Help Center. Additionally, a searchable User’s Guide contains both “Teacher’s Tools” and “Technical Information.”
The materials provide information for administrators to collaborate with program specialists to “design targeted and customized professional development sessions” to support “fidelity of program implementation by training educators to differentiate instruction for effective screening and progress monitoring, disaggregate data for instructional use, and track growth toward campus/district goals and initiatives to optimize usage of the program as well as uncover growth opportunities.”
While materials include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction through the computer-adaptive instruction that can be delivered year-round, they do not include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction or realistic pacing guidance, routines, and support for 180-day or 220-day schedules through the Teacher Resource or teacher-directed lessons. Students work on an individualized instructional pathway of lessons based on their results on the ISIP assessment. The “Cycle and Unit Descriptions” page on the Istation website states: “Students move forward through the Istation interactive instruction at their own pace. Because the Istation curriculum is designed to automatically place students at their individual instructional level, students and teachers do not choose what activities to complete, nor can students be moved backward in the instruction. Istation performance is not intended to be used for classroom grades.”
The digital student edition’s visual design is neither distracting nor chaotic. Materials include appropriate use of white space and design that supports and does not distract from student learning. Pictures and graphics are supportive of student learning and engagement without being visually distracting.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The pictures and graphics in the online student application support learning and engagement without being distracting or chaotic. The online application uses a soft blue cloud background. The design is free from distracting images and colors. The text uses a clear font in contrasting colors from the background so that it is easy to read. The materials support student learning by providing clearly labeled icons with simple images that reflect the content. Icons are appropriately sized, are not crowded, and contrast with the light blue and white cloud background.
The main screen of the student application contains clearly labeled links to the various instructional tools. The links include simple icons and labels both in English and Spanish. The “ISIP” reading assessment allows students to select a theme that adjusts the visual appearance of the assessment. For example, the night theme has a dark background with white lettering. The “Library” page contains colorful images and clear labels for reading levels and genre categories. After selecting a reading level or nonfiction text, the students are directed to the appropriate online library. The book titles are clearly labeled. The pictures are easily identifiable by students and support student learning by clearly identifying the book topics.
The pictures and graphics are supportive without being distracting. The colors are bright, clear, and colorful. Animated characters that represent diverse populations are included in each lesson. The characters move around the screen to create an engaging “game-like” environment. Text features and fonts are appropriate and adequately placed for students to navigate each screen. Icons, such as a “go back button,” are repeatedly used. Hence, students are familiar with what appears on their screens as they work through lessons. When students are working through reading passages, the pages are uncluttered; white space is appropriately used for readers in grades 6–8.
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, “World of Wonders,” students may select from three different categories to read: “Journeys,” “Adventures,” or “Heroes.” When reading “Treasure” by Joanna Robinson in the Adventures category, the text is black and in grade-appropriate font size; appropriate white space surrounds the text and images. The images, as well as the glossary at the end, support the comprehension of the passage.
In the “Extras” in Timeless Tales 1.1B, students listen as the narrating character explains the activity’s objective in the “Vocab Lab.” Students see a brightly lit screen with color-coded vessels labeled “prefix” (salmon-colored), “root” (yellow-colored), and “suffix” (green-colored). The vessels are connected to combine the different word parts, which appear in a white box and the definition. Students follow the instructions given orally by clicking on the corresponding word/image, which flashes until they complete the instructions. The narrator reads the definition of the created word, then uses the word in a sentence. As the words are read, they are highlighted, and images appear in the top left corner that support the sentence’s content. For example, the character guides students to create the word discredit. He reads the highlighted sentence about a newspaper reporter that is “discredited,” at which time an image of a newspaper appears in the top left corner, supporting student comprehension of the sentence. The transitions between instructions are clouds mimicking what may happen in a lab when different substances are mixed, matching the theme of the “Vocab Lab.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 4.1A, students listen to the narrating character explain the task for this section of the curriculum. As she explains, corresponding images/text appear to the right against a large white background. Before continuing with the skill, the character leads students through an exercise to define key vocabulary using a large graphic organizer with space for the term, definition, sentence, and example. Each section of the organizer turns yellow when the character tells students to click on it. The section flashes in yellow until the student clicks the section, helping keep the students engaged. A “help” button flashes in green in the bottom right corner if students still need support to follow the instructions given. Students cannot click on any other portion of the organizer, which ensures they remain focused on the task at hand and are not distracted by the other items on the screen. If students attempt to click on any place other than that which is instructed or attempt to click on any portion of the screen while instructions are being given, the mouse (arrow) does not respond, or a cross out sign appears to the left of the mouse (arrow).
The technology present in the materials supports and enhances student learning. The curriculum is a winner of several national educational technology awards. As a supplemental resource, the materials provide a technology platform that includes assessments, a reading library, oral reading fluency, and writing rules activities.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
Each student lesson is on a digital platform. The technology components enhance student learning by providing engaging visuals and explanatory animations. The consistency present in each lesson creates a platform that students can work through with familiarity. Lessons start by welcoming students to the site. An arrow allows students to click back to replay if additional instructions are needed or if they need to hear the questions once more. The materials are easy to navigate with clearly labeled icons and instructional paths; they are free from extraneous, distracting information, images, and animation.
The “Reading Program Guide” describes the materials as “dynamic game-like educational technology” consisting of “adaptive assessments and curriculum...aligned to Texas educational standards.” Students access the application via “PCs, Macs, iPads, and Chromebooks.” The technology automatically places students into the program at their current instructional level. Students then work through the individualized path, which consists of lessons that follow a “research-based instructional method: introduction and teach, guided practice, application of skills, and reteach as needed.” The activities are sequenced from easy to more complex.
The platform provides a “Teacher Station” that includes a preview of the online lessons, including “Timeless Tales” and “Nexlevel.” The materials are clearly labeled and organized by grade clusters. Appropriate teacher guidance is provided in the online “Toolbox” and “Help Center.” Teachers and administrators access reports detailing when students are experiencing difficulties with specific skills via the website. Teachers use that data to deliver “Teacher-Directed Lessons,” which can also be searched and printed as needed. A “Teacher Help Center” is supported by “qualified personnel who can answer questions about the system or help resolve an issue”; it is available via a toll-free phone number, email, and chat when logged into the website. Bilingual (Spanish/English) personnel can assist if necessary as well.
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