ConceptLinks® Frequently Asked Questions
- What audience is the program primarily geared to? Which students in which grades will specifically benefit from participating in the program?
- What evidence/research do you have to support the effectiveness of the program?
- Which of the five components of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and/or reading comprehension) does the program address? How does it address those components? What are the desired learning outcomes?
- What kind of assessments are embedded in the program? How is student achievement/progress monitored?
- Is the program appropriate for RTI?
- What technology resources are available to support the program?
- What kinds of collaborative learning structures exist within the program? In other words, what kinds of opportunities does the program provide for students to work and learn together?
- How is the program delivered?
- How does the program differentiate instruction? Additionally, what supports or strategies are built in for English Learners and /or students with special needs? Do all students do the same curriculum at the same time? Does the program customize curriculum for individual students? If so, how?
- What kind of/how much training and/or professional development is necessary to prepare teachers to use the program?
- How do I place students in the appropriate books?
- How do I assess and monitor students’ progress?
- When should students move to the next level Student Book? Should I move students before they have completed a book if they demonstrate they are ready?
- How do I address the needs of students who read the Purple Level Student Book in the first week of a multi-week instructional plan?
- What hands-on activities are included in the science modules?
A. ConceptLinks® is designed for students in grades 3-8+ who need extra support with reading comprehension, language development, and standards-based science and social studies content—including ELLs and other struggling readers. The four differentiated Student Books for each module are written at grade 2 to grade 5 reading levels and offer standards-based science and social studies content.
A. In 2007, an independent educational research company conducted a scientifically based research study to test the instructional effectiveness of ConceptLinks®. Nearly 500 students in grades 4 through 8 in urban and suburban classrooms in the northeast, southeast, south, Midwest, and southwest regions of the country participated in the study. Students received an average of 8 one-hour lessons of instructions, along with a pre-test and post-test.
Independent Efficacy Study Key Findings:
Students Achieved Significant Gains After Using ConceptLinks® for Two Weeks
- Students demonstrated a statistically significant increase in vocabulary and reading performance
- On average, students’ test scores in conceptual comprehension and vocabulary improved by 33%
- Over 99% of students achieved gains in vocabulary
- All types of students including English Language Learners, struggling students and grade-level readers showed improvement as a result of using ConceptLinks®
Teachers gave ConceptLinks® high marks for
- Teaching reading
- Teaching content
- Achieving their districts’ instructional goals
- Teaching academic vocabulary, comprehension strategies, and academic knowledge development
- Providing a manageable instructional plan that was meaningful to students
- Providing a manageable small group instruction plan
For more details please see our Efficacy Study Report.
Q. Which of the five components of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and/or reading comprehension) does the program address? How does it address those components? What are the desired learning outcomes?
A. ConceptLinks® provides explicit instruction and practice for fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. These elements are woven throughout instruction in each of the ConceptLinks® modules.
Fluency is supported through repeated opportunities to develop oral language (whole group, small group, and pair discussion) and through audio recordings on the ResourceLinks Website (also available on CD) that include the complete text of each student book.
Vocabulary is front-loaded at the beginning of each module during oral whole-class discussion facilitated by step-by-step guidelines in the Teacher’s Guide and supported by the Concept Connector. It is then reinforced through a vocabulary lesson found in the TG that prepares students to begin reading the Student Books. Each differentiated Student Book begins with a language development activity that asks students to use academic vocabulary in complete sentences. Vocabulary is emphasized throughout the Student Books with boldface key words, on-page definitions, visual representations of key vocabulary, “Explore Language” features that call out specific words and usages, and a complete glossary at the back of every book. Vocabulary instruction is revisited at the end of Chapter 3 and again in the “Use Language” lesson. Each module ends with a review of the key vocabulary words for the module. Additionally, all vocabulary instruction in the Student Books is supported by clear guidelines in the TG. Numerous additional opportunities for teaching and reinforcing vocabulary are included on the ResourceLinks Website (also available on CD-ROM).
Reading comprehension is first addressed at the beginning of each module during the whole-class discussion with questions in the Teacher’s Guide designed to help teachers activate and build students’ background knowledge. Next, a specific reading comprehension skill is explicitly taught through a TG lesson in which teachers introduce the strategy, model it, and then ask students to immediately apply what they’ve learned to a sample text. The TG also includes guidelines to help the teacher work with students to preview the Student Books and set a purpose for reading. The TG offers teachers extensive support for guided reading with easy-to-follow plans for small-group classroom management and teacher’s notes for working with students in their groups, including reinforcement of the comprehension strategy. As they work in their small groups, students are asked to complete a leveled Study Guide for each chapter in the Student Book. A Reading Strategy Assessment at the end of each module gives students an additional opportunity to practice applying the reading strategy for the module and helps teachers assess how well students have learned to use the strategy. Additional support for teaching reading comprehension strategies can be found on the ResourceLinks Website (also available on CD-ROM).
A. Numerous opportunities for formal and informal assessment are built into the ConceptLinks® program including several self-scoring, computer-based assessments on the ResourceLinks website.
Informal assessment guidelines are provided for teachers during class discussions at the beginning and end of every module. Additional opportunities for informal assessment include discussion with students in their small groups and through student-response activities such as the chapter Study Guides and the “Your Turn” end-of-chapter response activities.
Every module includes a comprehensive array of formal assessments:
- Module Pre-/Posttest
- Self-Assessment for the student
- Differentiated End-of-Book tests to assess students’ comprehension of what they have read
- Comprehension Strategy Assessment to assess how well students are applying the target reading comprehension strategy
- Differentiated Language Assessments
- Rubrics for oral language assessment and for 6-traits-based writing assessment
A. ConceptLinks® offers flexible implementation that is suitable for all RTI Tiers. Because the program is truly customizeable, teachers can layer instruction to meet a wide variety of intervention needs. Differentiated instruction is the core of the ConceptLinks® program supported by clear guidelines in the teacher’s guide and leveled student activity sheets. Formal and informal program assessments guide instruction and help teachers monitor students’ progress.
ConceptLinks® is highly supportive of other instructional resources that may be in use within a school or district, with direct instruction and reinforcement of key reading comprehension strategies and language skills including:
Reading Comprehension Strategies
A. Supporting all 20 ConceptLinks® Modules, the subscription-based ResourceLinks Website is an important program component offering online resources to extend and customize instruction including:
- Hundreds of module-specific downloadable photographs, diagrams, maps, technical drawings, state-specific resources, and other images
- E-masters that help teachers create minilessons and other activities to customize instruction and provide additional concept and skills practice
- Graphic organizers that help students organize ideas and information before they write
- Audio recordings of each ConceptLinks® Student Book and ELL Newcomer lessons
- Dual-language E-Masters that support English language learners
- Comprehensive assessment tools
Note: Technology resources are also available on CD-ROM.
Collaborative learning is a core element in the design of the ConceptLinks® program. Each module begins and ends with whole-class discussion to activate and build prior knowledge and front-load vocabulary, and then to review key concepts and vocabulary from the module. Students discuss key academic vocabulary as a group and work together to create a word map and word list. They also work together to share predictions and questions about the books they will read. Students work in small groups to preview the Student Books and set a purpose for reading. The “Share Ideas” feature in the Student Books offers prompts for student discussion. During guided reading, students work in small groups or in pairs to read the text, complete their Study Guides, and discuss “Your Turn” activities. Students share their responses to the “Your Turn” activities in whole class or small group discussions.
ConceptLinks® is a flexible, modular program with 20 modules, each focusing on a different standards-based science or social studies topic:
Each module includes:
- Four Leveled Student Books (one 6-pack of each book*)
- Concept Connector (poster for whole-class discussion)
- Teacher’s Guide
- ResourceLinks subscription-based website (also available on CD-ROM)
- Storage Tote Bag
*Modules can be customized to meet specific classroom needs
ConceptLinks® modules are designed for flexible implementation. The minimum recommended instruction time per module is 5 days, with 60 to 90 minutes of daily lessons. Lesson extensions offer an additional week’s instruction and opportunities to deepen and extend the skills, strategies, and concepts taught during the first week.
Q. How does the program differentiate instruction? Additionally, what supports or strategies are built in for English Learners and /or students with special needs? Do all students do the same curriculum at the same time? Does the program customize curriculum for individual students? If so, how?
A. Each ConceptLinks® module is presented through four leveled texts that spiral middle-grade science or social studies content from book to book, providing increasingly challenging academic vocabulary, text load, and concepts. Instruction is differentiated by the content of lessons, the process used in learning, and the products of learning. Reading levels for each of the student books within a module range from grade 2 to grade 5. The Teacher’s Guide offers clear, easy-to-follow guidelines and teacher’s notes for working with students in leveled groups, as well as leveled Study Guides help students organize and check comprehension of key ideas. Writing assignments and program assessments are also leveled to meet individual students’ needs.
The Student Books are scaffolded with numerous built-in supports to help teachers meet the needs of ELLs and other students with special needs.
- Key vocabulary is highlighted in the text, defined on the page, and supported visually through photographs, technical drawings, and charts.
- Key ideas are called out on the page.
- The “Explore Language” features help students understand word roots, word origins, prefixes, suffixes, and usage.
- Key words are listed in a glossary at the back of every Student Book for reference. The words are defined, their plural form is shown, and the words are used in context sentences.
- The “Key Ideas Map” at the back of each Student Book serves as a handy review of key ideas. Students can refer to this page during reading to check understanding, after reading to review, and can use it as a model for their own note taking.
Students’ literacy and language development are supported through specific lessons and features woven throughout the Teacher’s Guide, Student Book, and program technology resources.
- Several lessons in the TG focus on building background knowledge, academic vocabulary, and oral language before reading. Vocabulary is reinforced throughout the Student Books, with a special “Expand Vocabulary” activity at the end of Chapter 3.
- The TG for each module provides explicit instruction and practice of a target reading strategy. The strategy is introduced before reading, reinforced during guided reading and with a special “Strategy Focus” activity at the end of Chapter 2, and reviewed on the chapter Study Guides.
- The “Develop Language” feature at the beginning of every student book and the “Use the Language of Science” feature at the end of Chapter 1 give students opportunities to develop oral language, use academic vocabulary, and practice sentence patterns.
- A complete Newcomer Lesson sequence helps teachers prepare English language newcomers to move into the blue level Student Book. Vocabulary cards on the Image Bank provide visual support for development of essential basic academic vocabulary.
- The Audio CD includes the complete text of every Student Book and guides students through the Newcomer Learning Masters.
- Mini-lessons on the ResourceLinks Website (also available on CD-ROM) allow teachers to reinforce and reteach key concepts for the whole class, small groups, and individuals.
The clear, step-by-step teacher’s notes in the ConceptLinks® Teacher’s Guide help make the program easy to use with minimal training or preparation. Teachers benefit from an introductory orientation, but this is not required for success with the program.
A. The Teacher’s Guide includes a detailed Placement Guide (pp. 12-13) to help teachers place each student in the Student Book that best matches his or her instructional reading and language levels. Placement can be determined based on the existing data a teacher may have for students. If no data are available and the teacher lacks previous experience working with the students, the teacher should observe each student reading briefly from the Blue or Green Level Student Book or from the strategy passage on page 21 in the Teacher’s Guide to get a basic fluency measure based on the profiles in the Placement Guide, and then place the students based on the descriptions in the Guide.
A. ConceptLinks® offers multiple opportunities to assess and monitor students’ progress throughout the program:
- The Module Pre-/Posttest provides a formal assessment of students’ content knowledge before and after completing each unit of study.
- Before Reading: The Concept Connector, Side A, provides leveled questions to help teachers assess prior knowledge.
- At the End of Every Chapter: Your Turn activities support ongoing monitoring of students’ progress. Students’ responses to Study Guide questions at the end of each chapter help teachers assess academic vocabulary, use of the comprehension strategy, and understanding of the science process skill.
- At the End of Every Book: The Concept Connector, Side B, includes differentiated questions for informal assessment of students’ content knowledge. Differentiated End-of-Book tests provide formal assessment of content knowledge. The Strategy Assessment demonstrates how effectively students use the reading comprehension strategy taught in the lesson. Differentiated Language Assessments assess students’ use of language skills. The Self-Assessment at the end of every book asks students to reflect on their own learning.
- Additional Assessment: Writing and oral presentations can be assessed using rubrics in the Teacher’s Guide.
- The Assessment Guide (E-Master 2 on the Resource CD-ROM) provides a good visual overview of all the ways a teacher can assess and monitor students’ progress throughout ConceptLinks.
A. When the teacher observes, based on the various assessments within the program and the Placement Guide profiles (Teacher’s Guide pp. 12-13), that a student has mastered the content and language skills at a given level, the student is prepared to move to the next level.
If the teacher observes that a student is clearly ready for the next level before completing an entire book and the related activities, it would be permissible to move that student to the next level if he or she appears to be unchallenged by the current book. However, the student should begin the next book at the beginning in order to gain exposure to all the additional content that is included in the higher level book. Generally, the program authors recommend completing an entire book before advancing to the next level.
- Due to interrupted schooling or other factors, some students may have more prior knowledge of one science topic than of another. In that situation, a student may be able to read at a higher level on a familiar topic than on an unfamiliar one.
A. After completing the Purple Level Student Book, students can partner with less proficient readers to read one of the other Student Books. Research has shown that more advanced students can benefit greatly and expand their learning by helping their peers. In addition, reading texts below their instructional level will help these students develop fluency. Students can also go further with the Writer’s Workshop and Career Explorations activities.
A. The Science Process Skill Mini-Lessons (Teacher’s Guide pp. 22, 32, 42) and some of the Your Turn activities (Student Books, pp. 9, 15, 19) offer hands-on activities that ask students to observe scientific phenomena; make inferences; gather, record, interpret, and use data; and communicate their findings.
Matter TG, p. 22
Cells TG, pp. 22, 42
Plants TG, pp. 22, 32
Earth TG, p. 42
Force TG, p. 22, 32
Volcanoes TG, pp. 22, 32
Solar TG, p. 32
Ecosystems TG, p.22
In several cases, the Reinforce and Extend lessons in the Teacher’s Guide also actively engage students in thinking and communicating like scientists: Use Language/ Writer’s Workshop (TG pp. 63, 76-81, SB p. 21) and Science Around You (TG. p. 63, SB p. 22).