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Reading Rockets News

April 2014

  • In Focus: Learning through poetry
  • Books & Authors: New booklist: On the Go! | Video interviews with Mary Ann Hoberman and J. Patrick Lewis | Poetry books and resources | Diversity in children's books
  • Ideas for Educators: Featured strategy: Choral reading | Reading diagrams, tables and timelines | Plugging into nature: activities and resources for Environmental Education Week
  • Research & News: Trying to close a knowledge gap, word by word | Reading and boys of color | Gauging text difficulty: when readability formulas don't work

In Focus: Learning Through Poetry

Poetry Walk

Jumpstart poetry writing in your class! Outdoor poetry walks give students a way to "write about what they know." Before heading outdoors, read aloud a few poems that are rich in descriptive language. Then, take your class on a walk around the neighborhood to observe and collect sensory images from their direct experience with nature. Students can bring a poetry journal with them to write down descriptive words as they observe, listen, smell, and touch things outside the classroom.
See article >

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Related resource:
Connecting Science and Poetry (from the American Library Association)

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Retelling History with "Found Poetry"

Retelling history from a personal perspective is a great way for students to make learning their own. Using primary source materials (letters, notebooks, scripts, images and more) from the Library of Congress, stu­dents select words that allow them to share through poetic form what they know about a historical figure or period. Dig into the resources provided in the Library's Found Poetry set or research your own collection. A teacher's guide is included.
See "found poetry" resources >

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Related blog post:
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom >

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Poetry: Thinking Outside the Genre!

(From our blogger and third grade teacher, Emily Stewart)
I just LOVE teaching poetry! I try diligently to incorporate it throughout the year at various times for general exposure, and specifically to help my kiddos see that our reading strategies can be used across a wide variety of texts. Poetry can be a very useful tool when helping students understand and compare text. After state testing, I find that students enjoy some in-depth work within the poetry genre — especially rating poems and understanding their thoughts about various poetry.
See blog post >

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Writing Poetry with English Language Learners

Writing poetry is a great exercise for your ELLs. It gives them a chance to experiment with language and vocabulary, and to freely share their ideas without the confinement of perfect grammar or firm structures. Group poems, "I am" poems, magnetic poetry, cinquains, shape poems and more.
See article >

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Getting Poetry In

How can you build poetry into your busy daily schedule? Try packing up a poetry suitcase. Children's author Janet Wong (Apple Pie Fourth of July) tells you how in this video clip.
Watch video >

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Find many more resources in our Poetry Month section.

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Books & Authors

New Booklist: On the Go!

Picture books all about planes, trains, automobiles — and a small but mighty tugboat. From Brian Floca's brilliant Caldecott-winning book Locomotive to Lois Lenski's charming classic The Little Airplane, you'll find a fleet of picture books for the wheels lover in your family.
See booklist >

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The Raucous Auk: Our Interview with Mary Ann Hoberman Video icon

Whether writing about llamas in pajamas or a raucous auk, Hoberman's poems celebrate the pure joy of language and reading aloud. Through 50+ years of writing, Hoberman's work remains consistent in its craft, simplicity, playful use of language, and sensitivity to children's deepest feelings.
Watch interview >

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Poems, Puzzlers, Riddles & Rhymes: Our Interview with
J. Patrick Lewis Video icon

Meet J. Patrick Lewis, our third Children's Poet Laureate and the author of more than 80 books of poetry for children, on every topic under the sun — from celebrations of Civil Rights heroes (and she-roes) to riddle-filled math puzzlers to poems about amazing animals and iconic buildings from around the world. For decades, Lewis has been sharing his delight for poetry with school kids — and hoping to inspire new lovers of language. (Bonus feature: Listen as Lewis reads his "hidden poem" from the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. "Let the red fox quicken the seasons…")
Watch interview >

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A Packsack of Poems

Poetry, gardens, and our environment are celebrated throughout the month of April. Watch gardens grow, see the color green with new eyes, explore life in the sea, learn new outdoor games, and lots more in the pages of these spring-fresh books. From A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play to Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems, you'll find delightful words and pictures within.
Browse poetry booklist >

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Find more books, ideas for writing poetry, apps, how to make a "poetree" and more >

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Where Are People of Color in Children's Books? Video icon

Ethnic diversity is on the rise in the U.S. So why are children's books still so white? Only about 6 percent of kids' books published in 2013 feature characters that are African-American, Latino, Asian or Native American. Does the ethnicity of characters in children's books matter? Listen in to this discussion with authors, illustrators and librarians (from KQED public radio).
Listen to discussion >

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Ideas for Teachers

Featured Strategy: Choral Reading

Help your students build fluency skills, self-confidence and motivation. Try choral reading activities with a wide variety of texts, including electronic media, comics, jokes, riddles and verse — perfect for Poetry Month!
See strategy >

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Diagrams, Timelines and Tables — Oh My!

The Common Core State Standards place unprecedented emphasis on visual text — appropriately so, as visual components are increasingly found in many kinds of text. This shift in emphasis requires changes in our teaching. Concepts of print need to be expanded to include graphics, with instruction in how to read and analyze graphical devices such as diagrams, timelines, and tables.
See article >

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Plugging into Nature

National Environmental Education Week (April 13-19) inspires environmental learning and stewardship among K-12 students. The Greening STEM Toolkit includes activities and educator resources on 5 topics: gardens and schoolyards, energy efficiency, geography, climate and weather, and water. This year's theme: Engineering a Sustainable World.  
Browse all EE Week resources >

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Related resources:
Top 10 apps for Taking Technology Outdoors >

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Literacy in the Sciences tips sheets (in English and Spanish) >

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Ideas for Parents

Family Poetry Jam

Exploring poetry out loud with your kids is a great way to have fun with language. Poems include humor, interesting words, tongue twisters and alliteration. Start with playful, rhyming poetry about topics that are familiar to your child like animals, food and bedtime. Once a poem is familiar to your child, take turns reading! (In English and Spanish, from our Growing Readers parent series).
See tips >

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Sharing Wordless Picture Books

Sharing wordless books is a terrific way to build important literacy skills, including listening skills, vocabulary, comprehension and an increased awareness of how stories are structured. Discover simple ways to bring wordless books alive. (In English and Spanish, from our Growing Readers parent series).
See tips >

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Exploring Nature with Our Reading Adventure Packs

In each themed pack you'll find recommendations for paired fiction and nonfiction books plus instructions for three easy-to-do hands-on activities. Lots of our packs are perfect for encouraging exploration of our natural world. Dig in:

See all reading adventure packs >

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Related resource:
Our Green World >
Picture books, hands-on activities and crafts, educational apps and great kids' websites.

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Science at Home

A love of science can begin at an early age. We've identified a short list of excellent science-focused websites for you and your child to explore together. Over at Family Science (their tagline is "Use your parents in a science experiment!"), you'll discover lots of hands-on activities — like "Charge It," a racing activity that explores the 'push and pull' properties of static electricity. Peep and the Big Wide World offers videos, interactive games, and activity ideas perfect for preschoolers. There's more...
Read blog post >

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Research & News

Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word

Amid a political push for government-funded preschool for 4-year-olds, a growing number of experts fear that such programs actually start too late for the children most at risk. That is why Deisy Ixcuna-González, the 16-month-old daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, is wearing a tiny recorder that captures every word she hears and utters inside her family's cramped apartment one day a week. Recent research shows that brain development is buoyed by continuous interaction with parents and caregivers from birth, and that even before age 2, the children of the wealthy know more words than do those of the poor. So the recorder acts as a tool for instructing Deisy's parents on how to turn even a visit to the kitchen into a language lesson. It is part of an ambitious campaign, known as Providence Talks, aimed at the city's poorest residents to reduce the knowledge gap long before school starts. It is among a number of such efforts being undertaken throughout the country.
See article from The New York Times >

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Related article:
Starved for Words? Program Uses Talking to Nourish Kids' Brains

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Reading and Boys of Color

A new guide from the Promise Neighborhood Institute, Ensuring Black Males Are Successful Early Readers, highlights effective programs and best practices, tools, and resources to support black boys from birth through third grade. The guide is geared towards the Promise Neighborhoods model of coordinating educational, health, and community supports to help children succeed from the cradle to college to career.
Download guide >

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Gauging Text Difficulty: When Readability Formulas Don't Work

There's more to reading than simple properties of words and sentences. There's building meaning across sentences, and connecting meaning of whole paragraphs into arguments, and into themes. Readability formulas represent a gamble. The gamble is that the word- and sentence-level metrics will be highly correlated with the other, more important characteristics. It's not a crazy gamble, but a new study (Begeny & Greene, 2014) offers discouraging data to those who have been banking on it.
Read article by Dan Willingham > (from Real Clear Education)

See study >

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In Mother's Shadow

I walk behind Mother
through the woods
careful
not to touch the poison oak
she points to with her stick.

She sees snakes before
they move.

She finds her way
by the smell of the trees.

She stops to rest
the very moment
my shoes grow
heavy
and gives me water,
gives me shade

in her steady
shadow.

Janet Wong
from The Rainbow Hand: Poems about Mothers and Children

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Maria Salvadore
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April 7, 2014
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"There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away" — Emily Dickinson