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Reading Rockets News

October 2014 Newsletter

  • In Focus: Writing
  • Books & Authors: Little sod house on the prairie | Interview with Charles R. Smith, Jr. (My People) | Class visit and interview with Erica Perl (Chicken Butt) | New booklist: Count, Think, Play (all about math) | Fall Harvest of Books
  • Ideas for Parents: Digging up dinosaurs | Collaborative story writing | Groundbreaking resource for parents of kids with learning and attention issues
  • Ideas for Educators: Informational books as mentor texts for young writers | Featured strategy: transition words | National Day on Writing | What's going on inside a dyslexic student's brain?
  • In the News: Low-performing Florida grade schools add extra reading time | Growth of online reading fuels new achievement gap | Could bilingual education mold kids' brains to better resist distraction? | Expanding a preschool model with proven lifetime benefits

In Focus: Writing

Handwriting in the Time of Common Core

Should schools still be teaching handwriting? Literacy expert Tim Shanahan emphatically says yes. Research shows that there is a close relationship between reading and writing — and that the amount and quality of children's writing is highly dependent on their handwriting skills. "Students simply write less and write less well (in terms of the quality of the composition) if they can't easily get words on paper." Find out more about the reading-writing relationship — and why handwriting plays such a critical role.
See blog post >

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Looking at Writing: Pre-K to Grade 3

Writing is a process. Writing with kids can be incredibly rewarding but it can also be painstaking and frustrating, for the writer and for the adult. For most writers, it's somewhere in-between. In this interactive tool — featuring writing samples from real kids — you'll find advice about instruction, guidance on assessment, classroom strategies, video, and more.
Go to interactive tool >

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In the Preschool Classroom: Scaffolding Early Writing

Providing young children with rich writing experiences can lay a foundation for literacy learning. In this article, find out how to individualize writing instruction that's developmentally appropriate — using centers, journals, and morning message. It all begins with drawing and scribbling.
See article >

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In the Classroom: Digital Tools for Young Writers

Third grade Shana Sterkin uses iPads as a writing tool to help her third grade students organize their ideas and share their writing. In this clip from our show Growing Writers, she demonstrates how to use a simple, free writing app.
Watch clip >

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Meet the Writing Experts

National experts Steve Graham, Karen Harris, Paul Rogers and Jane Hansen talk about what good writing instruction looks like, writing in the Common Core, the elements of effective professional development for teaching writing, and how parents can support writing at home.
Watch videos >

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For Parents: Common Core Writing Standards 101

Get to know the four "anchors" of the Common Core writing standards and simple things you can do at home to help your child build skills in all of these areas. From our Growing Readers newsletter, in English and Spanish.
See parent tips >

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Find many more resources about writing >

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Books & Authors

Little Sod House on the Prairie

In our special blog series, children's literacy consultant Rachael Walker and her family (three generations!) visit some of the places where the Ingalls family lived. In this post, our intrepid explorers stop in Mankato, Minnesota where they learn about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and visit the beautifully restored home of Maud Hart Lovelace, the author of the Betsy-Tacy series.

"… the banks of Plum Creek is where we headed next. Our route took us through Mankato, Minnesota. Mankato is about midway between Pepin and Walnut Grove. Fans of the "Little House on the Prairie" television series may remember Mankato as the "big city" where Pa made deliveries. That isn't much of a Laura-Ingalls-Wilder reason to stop there, but there is a good reason to learn more about Mankato's history and how it figures into the Ingalls' journey, actions and attitudes."
See blog post >

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My People: Our Interview with Charles R. Smith, Jr.

Award-winning writer, poet, and photographer Smith finds his stories in music (Dance with Me), poetry (My People), sports (Let's Play Baseball), and the lives of remarkable people (Black Jack). Books and reading were important to him as a child. He says, "I just loved the storytelling, I just loved everything about the book itself. And the education I was getting that was taking me beyond the place I currently was..."
Watch interview >

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Imagination Collaboration

Author Erica Perl (the Chicken Butt series) visits a third grade class to share her own writer's notebook and storyboards. Then, it's a lively afternoon of collaborative story writing — and a chance for the kids to act out the elements of their story.
Watch clip >

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See our video interview with Perl >

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Count, Think, Play: Our New Booklist All About Math

Meet 10 mischievous mice, join the Wing Wing brothers in a geometry palooza, turn a subway ride (or neighborhood walk) into a counting adventure — and more in this lively collection of picture books for kids 3-9 years old.
See booklist >

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Fall Harvest of Books

There's a change of season in the air. Gardens are ready for their final harvest, pumpkins are ready to carve, and costumes are made ready for Halloween night. Get to know some hungry ghosts, old monsters, a Scaredy Squirrel, and other delightful characters in this collection of books perfect for crisp October days (and nights).
See booklist >

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Ideas for Parents

Digging Up Dinosaurs

It's National Dinosaur Month! Explore our rich collection of fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, apps for learning, and kid-friendly websites. Become a cookie paleontologist, dig for dino bones, entertain your friends with a not-too-scary Tyrannosaurus hand shadow, and much more!
Start with a Book: Dinosaurs >

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More great dinosaur resources:

Collaborative Story Writing for Kids (in the Digital Age)

In a collaborative story, each person takes turns telling the part of the story. In this post from Imagination Soup, learn how to create a group email story 5 easy steps. Don't forget to add some action and character development!
See blog post >

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Groundbreaking Resource for Parents of Kids with Learning and Attention Issues

Introducing Understood.org, a new online destination for parents of kids ages 3-20 with learning and attention issues. Access to the entire site is available free of cost. Parents get secure access to personalized support, the wisdom of other parents, and expert information about the "what is" and the "how to" of their kids' academic, social and emotional needs.

Developed by parents, experts, and people with their own learning and attention issues, this resource helps parents understand what they can do to support their children at home and in school. All resources offered in English and Spanish. Understood offers:

  • Personalized recommendations for content, tools and technology matched to the child's needs
  • Practical advice to help navigate common behavior challenges
  • The opportunity to talk live with experts in learning and attention issues -- every day!
  • And that's just the beginning!

Visit Understood.org >

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Ideas for Educators

Featured Strategy: Transition Words

Teaching transition words helps young writers learn to build a coherent story line, bridge the gap between ideas, and signal their readers about what's coming next in the writing. Instructional examples include effective use of mentor texts.
See strategy >

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Transition Words & Phrases handout >

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See all writing strategies >

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Informational Books as Mentor Texts for Young Writers

Help your students learn to write informational text through the use of focused read-alouds that include discussions of book genre elements, features, and organizational structure. See examples of book compositions by second-grade authors that demonstrate how read-alouds can support young writers' genre knowledge development.
See article >

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Related article >
Supporting Informational Writing in the Elementary Grades >

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National Day on Writing: Monday, October 20

NCTE, the National Writing Project, and The New York Times Learning Network invite you to celebrate writing in all its forms: through photos, film, and graphics; with pens, pencils, and computers; in graphs, etchings, and murals; on sidewalks, screens, and paper. Post your writing during the National Day on Writing Tweet-Up on October 20 with the hashtag #WriteMyCommunity.
Learn more >

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What's Going on Inside a Dyslexic Student's Brain?

There's no such thing as a "normal brain." In fact, there's a lot of diversity in how different brains process information — a challenge for educators tasked with teaching a diverse group of learners. Dyslexia is a common variation that affects how kids read, but what's really going inside the brain of someone affected by it? Kelli Sandman-Hurley's TED-Ed video explains.
Watch video >

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"If you want to write, you should pay attention to people — everybody has a story — and listen to people when they talk."

Kate DiCamillo, Newbery Medal winner and our National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

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