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Reading Rockets News

November 2014 Newsletter

  • In Focus: Fluency
  • Books & Authors: Little homestead on the prairie | Interview with Deborah Hopkinson (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt) | Booklist: Remembering and Giving Thanks | Books for American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
  • Ideas for Parents: Fluency matters | Passport to the world | 30 days of families learning together
  • Ideas for Educators: GeoWeek: map making | GeoWeek: The geography of food | Classroom activities for American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
  • News & Reports: Helping parents deal with learning and attention issues | Three lessons from the science of how to teach writing | What's going on inside the brain of a curious child? | Survey of language and literacy apps | Research-based guidelines for screen use for children under 3

In Focus: Fluency

Our PBS Show: Fluent Reading

Hosted by Deborah Norville, Fluent Reading explores how to help kids learn to decode quickly and become confident, fluent readers. Visit an afterschool program that helps struggling readers build fluency, watch a skilled teacher help her first graders recognize common spelling patterns, and sit in on an innovative community volunteer program called Book Buddies.
Watch program online >

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WCPM: The Canary in the Coal Mine

Teachers can and should use words-correct-per-minute (WCPM) as their first indicator that all may not be well with their students' reading ability. Learn the basics about fluency (what is it and how do I assess it?) in this overview from fluency expert Jan Hasbrouck.
Read article >

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The how-to:
Screening, Diagnosing, and Progress Monitoring for Fluency: The Details >

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Developing Fluent Readers

What should fluency instruction look like? And, what can teachers do to help students whose fluency is far behind their peers'?
Read article >

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Fluency rubric >

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Timed Repeated Readings

This simple strategy improves reading speed and accuracy by having kids reread the same passage multiple times.
See strategy >

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Performance Reading

This lively classroom activity boosts fluency skills, student engagement and reading comprehension. Learn how to integrate performance reading activities into your classroom, including differentiated instruction for struggling readers and English language learners. Sample texts are We're Going on a Bear Hunt (grades K-2) and Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (grades 3-5).
See article >

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For many more resources, browse our Fluency library.

Books & Authors

Little Homestead on the Prairie

In our guest blog series, children's literacy advocate Rachael Walker and her family visit some of the places where the Ingalls family lived. In this post, our foursome explore the Ingalls' homestead in De Smet, Dakota Territory. Join the crew as they ride in a covered wagon, explore the hay barn and a cozy dugout home, play on an old-fashioned seesaw, learn how to braid rope and make hay twists (just like Laura did during the Long Winter) — and spend a quiet moment among Pa's last living cottonwood trees.
See blog post >

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History's Boys and Girls: Our Interview with Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson always loved history and as a young girl wanted to know more about the people behind the facts. She grew up to become an award-winning writer of history and historical fiction for young children and teens. The "Tall, Thin Tale" of Abe Lincoln's near drowning or her picture book about Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt — a story of brave acts in the Underground Railroad — are riveting and rich in characters and historical detail, like all of Hopkinson's books.
Watch interview >

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Remembering and Giving Thanks

November is a time for parades, family dinners, the end of the harvest season — and giving thanks to our heroes. This basketful of picture books for kids 0-9 beautifully reflects the season.
New! Browse booklist >

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And more Thanksgiving favorites…
Ten Books for Thanksgiving >

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Books for American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

Browse this rich collection of books focused on the heritage, history, and contemporary communities of American Indians and First Nations Peoples. Many of these books will make engaging read-alouds; others will be great additions to social studies lessons. (From our sister site, Colorín Colorado)
See booklists >

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Ideas for Parents

Fluency Matters

Reading fluency is a child's ability to read a book or other text correctly, quickly, and with expression. It's the all-important bridge between just "decoding" words and understanding what you've read. Find out how you can help your child develop reading fluency through a few simple and fun activities. (In English and Spanish)
See tips >

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Find more fluency resources for parents at Start with a Book >

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Related resource:
Does your third grader read smoothly like this?

Passport to the World

Explore geography, expeditions, mapping, world cultures, and roads, rails and trails. Unpack our suitcase full of fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, and great websites and mobile apps for kids. Take a backyard mapping expedition, make a passport, map your food, visit homes around the world, and much more.
Passport to the WorldGo to Start with a Book >

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30 Days of Families Learning Together

This November, try out a month's worth of hands-on and wonder-filled family literacy activities — designed to inspire family memories rooted in learning, imagining, and playing. Turn friends into pen pals. Day 10: Create picture stories. (From the National Center for Family Literacy)
Download activity calendar >

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Ideas for Educators

Map Making

Kids often have difficulty understanding abstract map symbols. Learn how to introduce map skills with literature that contextualizes mapping in a narrative, can be related to where in the world each student lives, and engages students by actively "doing geography."
Read article >

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The Geography of Food

Celebrate the world's food during Geography Awareness Week (November 16-22). A "grocery store geography" activity helps kids strengthens critical thinking skills like pattern-finding and categorizing. Explore where food crops are grown, learn some new vocabulary (what's an autotroph?), visit a McDonald's in Hong Kong, meet some "extreme foodies" and much more — all at the NatGeo website.
Go to website >

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Related resources:

  • What's Cooking?
    Books, activities, apps and more (from our Start with a Book website)
  • Patterns and Categorizing
    For parents, simple activities to help their kids build pattern recognition and categorization skills. (In English and Spanish)

Classroom Activities for American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

Culture Quest

Learn about 10 different Native nations in this online activity. Cultural objects, such as stone jars and ceremonial clothing, help tell the story of each nation. Kids can also earn and collect knowledge badges!
Go to website >

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Living Maya Time: Sun, Corn, and the Calendar

Discover Mayan symbols through colorful Lotería cards, learn how to observe and track shadows, or try Mayan-style multiplication using beans, sticks, and shells.
Go to website >

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Where Do Stars Come From?

Pourquoi tales — sometimes called "origin stories" — are fictional stories that explain why something is the way it is ("pourquoi" means "why?" in French): Why birds fly, why the crow is black, or where the stars come from. In this lesson plan, students study a traditional Nigerian and Cherokee tale, and then collaborate to write and present their own pourquoi story.
Go to lesson plan >

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In these video clips, school librarian Sherry Holland shares pourquoi stories created by her students at Strawberry Park Elementary School in Steamboat Springs, CO.
See student stories >

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We give thanks to green grasses
that feel so good against our
bare feet,

for the cool beauty you bring to
Mother Earth's floor.

Thank you,
For all the birds in the world,
For singing your beautiful songs
For all to enjoy.

We give you thanks twinkling stars,
For making the night sky so beautiful …

Excerpted from Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
By Chief Jake Swamp, Illustrated by Erwin Printup

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