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December 2014 Newsletter

  • In Focus: Vocabulary
  • Books & Authors: Books as gifts: 2014 guide | Shopping for "Little House" keepsakes | Video interview with Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
  • Ideas for Teachers: What Is the Proper Sequence to Teach Reading Skills? | The wraparound learning experience | Turning a noisy classroom into a zone of productive talk
  • Ideas for Parents: Top 10 reading and writing Ideas for the winter holidays | The night before the museum | What's cooking? | Everyday literacy and math | 20 holiday survival tips for parents of kids with learning and attention issues
  • Research, Reports & News: Common Core reading: difficult, Dahl, repeat | The MindShift guide to digital games and learning | To help language skills of children, text parents with tips | Structured play in kindergarten may improve reading, vocabulary

In Focus: Vocabulary

Tackling Tier 2 Words: Vocabulary Development and Read Alouds

In this study, researchers observed the techniques of four primary teachers in teaching vocabulary during read alouds. Find out how each teacher strives to balance the pure pleasure of reading aloud with best practices in word study instruction — including questioning, elaboration of student responses, labeling, imagery, and morphemic analysis.
See article >

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Related article (excerpt from Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction):
Choosing Words to Teach >

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Academic Vocabulary in the Real World

How can we supplement the limited time for direct vocabulary instruction while motivating students to be excited about and attentive to the ways new words are used in authentic contexts in the world around them? In the Media is an out-of-school vocabulary activity intended to do just that. As a part of an academic word vocabulary intervention, sixth-grade students were challenged to find their words in the world around them.
Learn more >

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Word Analysis to Expand Vocabulary Development

When students engage in word analysis or word study, they break words down into their smallest units of meaning — morphemes. Discover effective strategies for classroom word study, including the use of online tools, captioning, and embedded supports to differentiate instruction.
Learn more >

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Related resource:
10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary

Featured Strategy: List-Group-Label

List-group-label is a vocabulary and comprehension strategy that helps develop categorization skills, build background knowledge, activate critical thinking, and grow vocabulary.
See list-group-label strategy >

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Go inside Cathy Doyle's second grade classroom in Evanston, Illinois to observe how a recent class read-aloud, The Gardener, becomes the springboard for a lively discussion about words.
Watch list-group-label video >

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Additional strategies:

Especially for parents

Building Your Child's Vocabulary

Conversations and questions about interesting words ("The book says, 'The boy tumbled down the hill,' and look at the picture! How do you think he went down the hill?") are a natural way to get new words into everyday talk. Here are 4 simple tips for introducing new words to your young learner. [In English and Spanish]
See parent tips >

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The Vocabulary of Science

Science learning involves lots of new vocabulary words. Help your child figure out "big words" by breaking the words apart, thinking about what the smaller parts mean, and exploring related words. Have fun building "word families" together! [In English and Spanish]
See parent tips >

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See all our vocabulary resources >

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Books & Authors

Give Books! Our 2014 Annual Gift Guide

Books are the perfect gift! Full of colorful images, characters, and storylines — they can be shared again and again. Pair with mugs of hot chocolate, kids, and a cozy reading nook. We've gathered together a fresh collection of wonderful books for children birth to age 12. Fascinating biographies, a menagerie of animal adventures (pigs, penguins, bats, dragons), board books for wee ones, poetry (Hi, Koo …), a lovely new illustrated collection of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, the latest adventures of Alvin Ho, Freddie Ramos, Judy Moody and Stink … and much more. There's even a book with no pictures.
See our new gift guide >

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Shopping for "Little House" Keepsakes and Gifts

In our special blog series, children's literacy consultant Rachael Walker and her family visit some of the memorable places where the Ingalls family lived. In this post, Rachael shares her "Little House" wish list — great gift ideas to inspire hands-on living history fun. Think sunbonnets, aprons, lunch pails, slate boards, McGuffey's readers, stick candy, and more. (Links to Laura Ingalls Wilder museum gift shops are included)
See blog post >

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Family Scrapbooks: Our Interview with Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

Together, Julie Andrews and her daughter and co-author Emma Walton Hamilton write and publish children's books that "nurture the imagination and cultivate a sense of wonder." In this remarkable family, handwritten and handed-down poems are gifts to be shared and treasured. Listen in as Andrews and Hamilton read aloud two of their favorites.
Watch video interview >

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Ideas for Teachers

What Is the Proper Sequence to Teach Reading Skills?

Literacy expert Tim Shanahan says that kids who are learning to decode should also be learning the cadences of text and how to think about what they read. All at the same time.
See blog post >

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The Wraparound Learning Experience

Second grade teacher Sandra Silbernagel uses an immersive, multisensory approach to bring a tall tale to life. Watch how Silbernagel models strategies like "shoulder buddies" and "mix, pair, share" to generate rich conversations and how she uses gestures as an aid in remembering new vocabulary. This is a lively lesson!
Watch video from Teaching Channel >

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Speaking Volumes: Turning a Noisy Classroom into a Zone of Productive Talk

Students love to talk. So do teachers. When there's a balance in the classroom between student and teacher discourse, good things happen. When students assume increased responsibility for discussions, when they interact with a wide range of peers on diverse topics and supply evidence for their thinking, great things happen. Gone are the days when a quiet classroom was equated with a good one. Productive student talk is essential to teaching and learning — and here's why.
See article from ASCD >

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Ideas for Parents

Top 10 Family Reading and Writing Ideas for the Winter Holidays

December is a great time to create low-key learning opportunities centered around books, storytelling, writing, and family adventures.
See ideas >

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The Night Before the Museum

Planning a family outing during the December holidays? The long school break is a great opportunity for some adventurous learning. Whether you're going to the zoo, a natural history museum, an historical park, art gallery, or concert we recommend you make a few "stops" before your visit to help your child get the most out of the experience. (From our Growing Readers series, In English and Spanish)
See tip sheet >

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What's Cooking?

Dozens of fiction and nonfiction books about food, cooking, and family traditions plus a generous helping of related hands-on activities, writing prompts, websites for kids, and apps for learning. Cooking together is a wonderful way for your child to practice reading and math skills! [From our sister site, Start with a Book]
See food & cooking resources for kids >

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Everyday Literacy and Math

From PBS KIDS Lab, a full menu of on-the-go learning activities to do with your child. Bathtime, mealtime, on the bus, or on a walk in your neighborhood — all are just right for practicing simple math and literacy concepts with kids.
See activities >

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20 Holiday Survival Tips for Parents of Kids with Learning and Attention Issues

Learning and attention issues can make the holiday hustle and bustle feel even more hectic. But with the right planning, you and your child can keep the season bright.
See holiday tips from Understood >

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Research, Reports & News

Common Core Reading: Difficult, Dahl, Repeat

Backers of the Common Core say it's important for kids to tackle complex texts. Critics argue that reading shouldn't be a struggle for kids. An NPR reporter visits one classroom that borrows from both sides.
See article from National Public Radio >

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The MindShift Guide to Digital Games and Learning

How can games unlock a rich world of learning? This is the big question at the heart of the growing games and learning movement that's gaining momentum in education. This guide from KQED explains key ideas in game-based learning, pedagogy, implementation, and assessment. The guide makes sense of the available research and provides suggestions for practical use.
See guide from KQED >

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To Help Language Skills of Children, Text Parents with Tips

A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages.
See article from The New York Times >

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"Tools of the Mind": Structured Play in Kindergarten May Improve Reading, Vocabulary

Training teachers to promote structured play among kindergarteners yields improved reading, vocabulary and math scores that persist into first grade, according to a new study. The technique, called "Tools of the Mind", seemed to be particularly effective in high-poverty schools. "The active ingredient is children are taking responsibility for their own learning," said Clancy Blair of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, who led the study. "They're practicing all the cognitive skills that are important for learning" Blair said.
See article >

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Winter Twilight

On a clear winter's evening
The crescent moon

And the round squirrel's nest
In the bare oak

Are equal planets.

By Anne Porter
from Firefly July by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

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