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Reading Rockets News

March 2015 Newsletter

  • In Focus: Writing
  • Books & Authors: New booklist: Spring Is in the Air | Picture books for Women's History Month | Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder's little schools | Interview with Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
  • Ideas for Educators: Benefits of challenging texts | Digital Learning Day resources
  • Ideas for Parents: The "flipped" classroom | Music and musicians: books, activities, and songs | Reading tips for parents in 11 languages | New Common Core website for parents
  • Research & News: How Children Learn to Read | Blocks, Play, Screen Time and the Infant Mind  | Common Core's unintended consequence? More teachers write their own curricula

In Focus: Writing

Classroom Strategy: Persuasive Writing

Young children are already masters of verbal persuasion! You can teach the art of persuasive writing using a few basic steps: look at models of good persuasive writing (pay close attention to word choice), identify an issue that is important to your students ("We need a longer recess!"), brainstorm at least three good reasons to support their case, gather facts to help build a logical argument, and write a cohesive summary.
See persuasive writing strategy >

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More writing strategies:

Framed Paragraphs guide students by providing the transitional phrases for sentences can incorporate various sentence types: long and short, simple and complex.

The RAFT strategy helps students understand their roles as writers, the audience they will address, the varied formats for writing, and the topic they'll be writing about.

Pause, Play, Rewind: Engaging Struggling Writers with Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling, which combines written and oral language with still and moving images, can boost motivation as well as strengthen specific writing skills. For example, the use of storyboarding encourages kids to think more deeply about the logical sequence and important details of their narrative. And digital storytelling invites sharing. Knowing that the work will be viewed by many encourages young writers to pay closer attention to audience, purpose, and form. Learn more about the power of digital storytelling, including practical tips on selecting the right hardware and software.
See article >

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Interactive Writing

Interactive writing makes the writing process visual to the whole class. Reading literature is an excellent way to initiate interactive writing in the class, and you can continue using literature as the class does interactive writing with any new book that is read throughout the year.
See article >

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Related article:
Study Shows Gains in Writing by "Sharing the Pen" in First Grade >

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Looking at Writing: Pre-K to Grade 3

Our interactive resource features writing samples from real kids at different skill levels. You'll find practical advice about instruction, guidance on assessment, classroom strategies to try, classroom video and interviews with experts, and more.
Explore 'Looking at Writing' >

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Writing Disabilities: An Overview

"The words are all tangled up inside my head. I'm confused. I get tangled up in writing the words, and I stop."

Find out why some children with learning disabilities struggle with writing and how instructional strategies that teach skills in handwriting, spelling, sentence formation, planning and revising, and self-regulation can help them become more confident writers.
See article >

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See all our writing resources >

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Books & Authors

New Booklist! Spring Is in the Air

Animals awaken. Baseball beckons. March winds begin to blow. Explore signs of the season in this new selection of picture books.
See new booklist >

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Inspiring, Imaginative Women

Celebrate Women's History Month with these 10 fiction and nonfiction picture books where women (and girls) shine brightly. Meet Clara Lemlick, who made working life better for men and women in the tough New York City garment district, pioneering astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, who helped us better understand the vastness of the universe, librarian Anne Carroll Moore who created the first children's room at the New York Public Library, and many more amazing women.
See booklist >

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More booklists for Women's History Month:

Related resource:
KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month

Laura's Little Schools

Join our "Little Journey on the Prairie" family as they explore the schoolhouses of Laura Ingalls Wilder in De Smet, South Dakota. In Laura's day, hand-held bells called school kids to class, McGuffey Readers were on every desk, and students used slate tablets to write. Our prairie travelers reflect on what's changed — and what remains much the same today.
See blog post >

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The Artist's Eye: Our Interview with Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

For more than 20 years, Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan have been researching and writing books together about art and artists for young readers — filling the "hole in the bookshelf." They have published books about painters, potters, installation artists, architects, sculptors, dancers and musicians. In their gorgeous picture book, Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, they explore the vibrant collaboration between Noguchi (sculpture), Graham (dance) and Aaron Copeland (music).
Watch Greenberg and Jordan interview >

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Ideas for Educators

The Benefits of Challenging Texts

Do kids build stronger vocabulary and comprehension muscles when they add challenging texts to their instructional-level reading diet? Literacy expert Tim Shanahan shares his thoughts (plus the supporting research).
See blog post >

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Get on the Map! Share "Accessible" Digital Activities for Digital Learning Day: March 13

Digital Learning Day 2015 (#DLD) is a chance to spread the important message that not all digital text is accessible. For the first time this year, educators can promote what "accessible digital" learning looks like by logging an activity or event that will appear on DLD's interactive worldwide map (check out the bright yellow "Tech Accessibility" icon). Help us show what tech accessibility means in a classroom, home, or community setting!
See blog post >

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Related resources:

Digital Learning Day resource roundup from Edutopia >
Topics include technology integration, blended classrooms, teaching with new media tools, game-based learning, and much more.

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Interactive Lesson plans from the Alliance for Excellence in Education >

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Primary Preoccupation: A connected grade one teacher invites the world into her classroom >

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Get the latest news and updates by visiting the Digital Learning Day website, or following @OfficialDLDay on Twitter and Facebook.

Ideas for Parents

The "Flipped" Classroom

This parent brief demystifies the flipped classroom — a new approach to teaching designed to give teachers more one-on-one time helping students and explaining difficult concepts in class. Find out how you as a parent can support flipped learning at home
See tip sheet (In English and Spanish) >

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Music and Musicians: Books, Activities and Songs

On our companion site, Start with a Book, discover a rich collection of great fiction and nonfiction picture books about music and musicians, hands-on activities, apps and kid-approved websites.
Music and Musicians >

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Related resources:

Making Music: Literacy Tips for Parents >

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A video interview with Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton >

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A wonderful collection of children's songs from our friends at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Visit NAEYC for Families >

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Reading Tips for Parents (in 11 Languages)

A child's success as a reader begins much earlier than the first day of school. Reading, and a love for reading, begins at home. Our one-page Parent Tips offer easy ways for parents to help kids become successful readers. Although we've divided these tips by age, many of them can be used with children at various ages and stages — we encourage you to choose the ones that work best for your child.
See tip sheets >

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See also:
Reading tips for parents of children with disabilities >

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Be a Learning Hero

This new Common Core-focused website provides parents with the information and resources they need to support their children's learning and help them be successful in school. The site provides English Language Arts skill building activities, examples of the Standards in action, and more.
Visit website >

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Research & News

How Children Learn to Read

The New Yorker

Why is it easy for some people to learn to read, and difficult for others? It's a tough question with a long history. We know that it's not just about raw intelligence, nor is it wholly about repetition and dogged persistence.
Read story >

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Q&A: Blocks, Play, Screen Time and the Infant Mind

National Public Radio

Dr. Dimitri Christakis has done done extensive research on blocks and play and lectured on media and children. He's not against digital education tools. But he says they have to be the right kind and age-appropriate. He is raising alarms that Americans are over-charging their infant's developing brains.
See story >

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Behold The Humble Block! Tools of the Trade

National Public Radio

Today we explore the simple, powerful tool that is still alive and well in some early learning classrooms: the wooden block. You might call it the anti-app. Measurement. Balance. Math. Negotiation. Collaboration. And fun. The smooth maple pieces need no recharging, no downloading.
See story >

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Common Core's unintended consequence? More teachers write their own curricula

PBS NewsHour

According to many teachers, experts and advocates of the Common Core, traditional curriculum sources haven't been meeting the demands of the new set of math and English standards that have been rolled out in more than 40 states in the past few years. More and more teachers are scrapping off-the-shelf lessons and searching for replacements on the Internet or writing new curriculum materials themselves.
See story >

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"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate."

— Mem Fox Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

Watch our interview with Mem Fox >

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